Home » Departments and Centres » History and Civilization » Research & Teaching » Seminars » 2018-2019 2nd term » Empires in Modern History

Empires in Modern History

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof Pieter JudsonProf Lucy Riall and Dr Alessandro Bonvini (Max Weber Fellow)
Registration code: HEC-RS-EMPIR-18
Hybrid seminar: 4 weekly sessions (Thursdays, 15:00-17:00, Sala del Torrino) and a block session on 1-2 March 2019
Starts on 7 February 2019

Admin. Assistant: Laura Borgese


Seminar description

This seminar investigates practices of empire in different sites around the world, and it explores the ways in which those practices shaped and influenced societies and politics both inside and outside of Europe. In particular we investigate a range of a-typical practitioners of informal Empire: individuals from the realms of business, science, or organized religion, for example, whose undertakings shaped Europe’s global relations, albeit often unintentionally. At the same time, we also examine how local peoples engaged with these same practices and principles of empire in order to pursue their own particular ends.

This seminar does not focus primarily on definitions of empires or of colonial rule, although it does examine the character and legacies of both. Instead we emphasize the many varieties of colonialism and the many possible layers of imperial rule in different global contexts. Thus, our approach examines a range of imperial practices in order to move beyond the traditional categories such as the distinction between “overseas” or “land-based” empires” or the notion of rising versus falling empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  In doing so our approach seeks to challenge the implicit hierarchy of modern European colonialism that makes France and Britain into emblematic cases from which other, allegedly less successful empires, diverged. In short, we aim to replace existing typologies of empire by exploring more diverse sites and practitioners of empire.



7 February: Introduction

  • F. Cooper, Colonialism in Question, Theory, Knowledge, History (Chapter 6 “States, Empires, and Political Imagination” 153-203) 
  • P. Wolfe, ‘History and Imperialism: a century of theory,’ American Historical Review, 109 (1997), 388-420

14 February: Informal Empire

  • J. Gallagher and R. Robinson, ‘The imperialism of free trade’, The Economic History Review 6/1 (1953), 1-15
  • D. Todd, ‘A French Imperial Meridian, 1814-1870,’ Past and Present, 210/1 (2011), 155-86

21 February: Rogue Empires

  • S. Press, Rogue Empires. Contracts and Conmen in Europe’s Scramble for Africa (Cambridge Mass. 2017), chapters 1 and 2 (ebook in the library)
  • B. Lüthi, F. Falk and P. Purtschert, ‘Colonialism without colonies: examining blank spaces in colonial studies,’ National Identities, 18 (2016), 1-9

28 February: Imperial Careers

  • T. Klein, ‘Biography and the Making of Transnational Imperialism: Karl Gützlaff on the China Coast, 1831–1851,’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 2018, 1-31
  • G. Dominy, ‘Not a Position for a Gentleman’: Sir Matthew Nathan as Colonial Administrator: From Cape Coast Castle to Dublin Castle via Natal,’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 2018, 93-120
  • L. Wildenthal, German Women for Empire, chapter 2, “The Feminine Radical Nationalism of Frieda von Bülow”

1 March

09:30-11:30  Settler Colonialism and Migration

  • W. Jackson, ‘Settler colonialism in Kenya,’ in E. Cavanagh and L. Veracini, The Routledge Handbook of Settler Colonialism (2017) 
  • R. Pergher, Mussolini’s Nation Empire. Sovereignty and Settlement in Italy’s Borderlands 1922-1943, chapter 4
  • S. Conrad, Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany (2006), chapter 

12:00-13:00: Scientists Construct Empire

  • Debora Coen, Climate In Motion. Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale, “The Face of the Empire”, chapter 5

15:00-17:30:  Environment and Empire

  • D. K. Davis, Resurrecting the granary of Rome (2007), chapter 3
  • John Fischer, Cattle Colonialism. An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawaii, chapters 2 and 6

2 March

9:30-11:20: Sexuality and Racism

  • D. Forgacs, Italy’s Margins. Social Exclusion and Nation Formation since 1861 (2014), chapter 2
  • T. Shepard, ‘”Something Notably Erotic”: Politics, “Arab Men,” and Sexual Revolution in Post-decolonization France, 1962–1974’, Journal of Modern History, 84 (2012), 80-115

11:45-13:30: A History of Brexit: Afterlife of Empire?

  • B. Schwartz, The White Man’s World (2011), chapter 7
  • P. Gilroy, Has It Come to This? (2004)
  • Recommended Background reading: K. O’Rourke, A Short History of Brexit (2019)


Page last updated on 28 February 2019