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Week 9. Empires

Tutor: Robert Fletcher (


What are empires? What forms do they take? How should we understand their apparent efflorescence across the nineteenth-century? How do empires and nation states differ, and how has the study of each differed? What can studying empires add to our understandings of globalisation? And how do the fields of imperial and global history relate to one another?

In this seminar we will explore empires from a global historical perspective. Please aim to read at least three of the core readings, following up on the points that interest you the most.

Core Readings:
P. Bang and C. Bayly (eds), ‘Tributary Empires: towards a comparative and global history’, in Tributary Empires in Global History (New York, 2011), pp. 1-17.

J. Burbank and F. Cooper, ‘Imperial Trajectories’, in Empires in World History: power and the politics of difference (Princeton, 2010), pp. 1-22.

J. Darwin, After Tamerlane: the global history of empire (London, 2007), pp. 1-46, 487-506.

J. Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: a global history of the nineteenth century (Princeton, 2014), pp. 392-468.

P. Wolfe, ‘History and Imperialism: a century of theory, from Marx to Postcolonialism’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 388-420.

Further reading:
G.B Magee and A.S. Thompson, Empire and Globalisation: networks of people, goods and capital in the British world, c.815-1914 (Cambridge, 2010).

J. Osterhammel, Colonialism: a theoretical overview (Princeton, 2002).

A. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: the Biological Expansion of Europe, 900­-1900 (Cambridge, 1986).

T. Ballantyne, ‘Colonial knowledge’, in S. Stockwell (ed.), The British Empire: themes and perspectives (Oxford, 2008), pp. 177–98.

Peter C. Perdue, ‘Comparing Empires: Manchu Colonialism’, The International History Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp. 255-262.

J. H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 (New Haven, 2006).

J. Gallagher and R. Robinson, ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’, Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 6. No. 1 (1953), pp. 1-15.

J. Darwin, ‘Imperialism and the Victorians: the dynamics of territorial expansion’, English Historical Review, Vol. 111, No. 447 (1997), pp. 614-642.

R. Koebner and H.D. Schmidt, Imperialism: the story and significance of a political word (Cambridge, 1964).N. Etherington, Theories of Imperialism (London, 1994).

R.J. Owen and R.B. Sutcliffe, Studies in the Theory of Imperialism (London, 1972).

M. Hodgson, Rethinking World History: essays on Europe, Islam and World History (Cambridge, 1993).