The Transformation of the British Empire in the 20th Century | Newberry

The Transformation of the British Empire in the 20th Century

Led by Frank Biletz. Ten sessions, 10 am - noon.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Saturdays, February 24 - May 5 (class will not meet March 31)

10 am - noon

This seminar is full. Call (312) 255-3700 to be on the waitlist.

Cost and Registration Information

Early Registration Price (January 9 at 10 am – January 26 at 4 pm): $285
Regular Registration Price (January 26 at 4 pm – first day of class): $313.5

Members, seniors, and students get a 10% discount.

This seminar is full. Please call (312) 255-3700 to be added to the wait list.

Excuse our dust!

Beginning January 2018 the Newberry will be undertaking renovation of much of the first floor. The Adult Education Seminars Program will still have use of the basement classrooms, but please check this link frequently for the latest conditions - which exterior doors are open or closed, where to find an accessible entrance, which restrooms are available, etc.

Because of the renovation, the Newberry Bookstore will be closed during the Winter/Spring and Summer 2018 terms. As such, seminar participants will be responsible for acquiring all required texts for their seminars on their own. We apologize sincerely for the inconvenience, and appreciate your understanding. We have put together a list of helpful resources that should make it easy to find the books you need.

Seminar Description

This course will explore the transformation of the “empire on which the sun never set” during the twentieth century. We will consider such topics as the Boer War, the impact of the First and Second World Wars on the Empire, the emergence of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress in India, the achievement of Indian independence, British involvement in the Middle East, the decolonization of African territories, the transition from Empire to Commonwealth, and the return of Hong Kong to China. Ten sessions.

Frank A. Biletz received his PhD in history from the University of Chicago, with a primary specialization in modern British and Irish history. He is currently adjunct instructor in history at Loyola University Chicago and has been teaching seminars at the Newberry since 1994.

Materials List


  • Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997. ISBN#: 978-0312169855. (Note that this book was also used for the Fall 2017 seminar “The Rise of the British Empire, 1600-1900”).
  • David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN#: 978-0195146608. (Note that there appear to be abundant inexpensive copies of this book available on the Amazon Marketplace).

First Reading:

  • Participants who took “The Rise of the British Empire” seminar in the Fall should review Part Three of the James book. Newcomers to the course please read, if possible, Parts One to Three before the first class meeting.

This class is part of the Newberry’s Adult Education Seminars Program. Learn more about our registration procedures.