Business Imperialism: Old and New Issues

Block Seminar

Organised by Prof. Youssef Cassis and Dr. Guillemette Crouzet (Max Weber Fellow)
29 February - 2 March 2016, Semina Room Mansarda
Admin. Assistant: Alina Vlad


Seminar Description

This Research Seminar will be in the form of a block seminar taking place over three days (Monday 29 February to Wednesday 2 March 2016). It will discuss the theme of “Business Imperialism: Old and New Issues”.

Business and imperialism are two key concepts, which are frequently associated. This block seminar will precisely explore the links between business and imperialism, from the 17Th century to the present day. This seminar will give researchers an overview of the evolution of the concepts but also of the complexity of the notion of business imperialism, which has taken many forms since the early modern period. It will address the key question of business imperialism as a mean of enforcing political power and as a tool for building different types of domination.

Different geographical and time examples have been chosen to discuss the intertwined relations between business and political presence, but also the social, political and environmental consequences of this economic imperialism.


Monday, 29 February 2016


9:30  10:30: General introduction: What is “business” imperialism? Concepts, understanding and evolution


11:00 – 13:00: Business Imperialism in Pre-Industrial Societies
(Guillemette Crouzet, Guido Van Meersbergen (MWF), Muriam H. Davis (MWF), Muriam Haleh David (MWF))

  • Focus: East India Companies, European business imperialism in India and in South Asia
  • Guido Van Meersbergen. “Merchant or King? The VOC: business and Empire (1602-1795)
  • Guillemette Crouzet. The East India Company in India and “its voracious appetite for land”: from economic presence to political and military conquest in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Muriam Haleh David, “Industrialization and the civilizing mission in French Algeria"


  • Arthur Weststeijn, “The VOC as Company-State: Debating Seventeenth Century Dutch Colonial Expansion”, in Itinerario. International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction, 38, 2014, pp. 13-34
  • Christopher A. Bayly, India and the making of Indian Society, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, Chapters 3 “The Crisis of the Indian State, 1780-1820”, p. 79-105 and 4 “The consolidation and failure of the East India’s Company State, 1818-1857”, pp. 106-136.


14:30 – 16:00: Formal and Informal Empire: Rethinking the debate on British expansion and the emergence of the “second” British Empire
(Youssef Cassis, Guillemette Crouzet)

  • Focus: What drove British imperialism after the loss of the American colonies? Should the Middle East help us understand the debate between formal and informal Empire?


  • For the best overview: Christopher A. Bayly, “The first age of global imperialism, c. 1760–1830”, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol.26, issue 2, 1998, pp. 28-47.
  • Ronald E. Robinson  &  John Gallagher, “The Imperialism of free trade”, in Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 6/1, 1953, pp.1-15.
  • Peter J. Cain & A. G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas II: New Imperialism, 1850-1945, Economic History Review, NS 40, 1987, pp. 1-26.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016


9:30  11:00:  “Oil imperialism”: oil exploration and exploitation as new means and forms of imperialism? (Guillemette Crouzet)

  • Focus: Middle East, South West Persia, debating Anglo-American “consortium” oil imperialism in the 20th century


  • Robert Vitalis, America’s Kingdom. Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2007, chapter one “Captive Narratives: A brief and exceptional introduction to the History of firms and states”, pp. 1-26.
  • Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy, Political Power in the Age of oil, “ Introduction”, p.1-11.


11:30 – 13:00: Business Imperialism in Latin America.
(Guest speaker: Prof. Peter Hertner)

  • Focus : Latin America, one of the privileged examples of economic imperialism.


  • D.C.M. Platt (ed.), Business Imperialism 1840-1030. An inquiry based on the British experience in Latin America Oxford University Press, 1977, “Introduction”, pp. 1-16.
  • Greg Grandin: Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, Metropolitan Books, 2006, chapter 5: “The third Conquest of Latin America”, pp.159-196.


14:30  16:00: Foreign Aid, Humanitarianism and Imperialism
(Emily Baughan (MWF), Youssef Cassis, Guillemette Crouzet)

  • Focus: Humanitarianism and foreign aid as tools or empire building? A focus on Britain’s “new” imperial role. Towards the rise of a new “post” imperial order?


  • Rob Skinner and Alan Lester, ‘Humanitarianism and empire: new research agendas’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40:5, 2012, pp. 729-47.
  • E. Baughan, ‘The Imperial War Relief Fund and the All British Appeal: Commonwealth, Conflict and Conservatism within the British Humanitarian Movement, 1920–1925’, Journalof Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40:5, 2012, pp. 845-61
  • Anna Bocking-Welch, ‘Imperial Legacies and Internationalist Discourses: British Involvement in the United Nations Freedom from Hunger Campaign, 1960–70’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40:5, 2012, pp. 879-96


Wednesday, 2 March 2016


9:30  11:00: Researchers’ Presentations

  • Jelle Bruinsma: Business Interests and Imperialism: Britain and the United States before 1914
  • Andreas Dugstadt: Business Imperialism and Natural Ressources: Sweden and Norway, 1980-1930


11:30 – 13:00: Researchers’ Presentations

  • Mari Lundemo: Business Imperialism in Nazi occupied Europe: the case of Organisation Todt
  • Trond Tøllefsen: 'Business interests, imperial power, and the British-German Fight over Dismantling, 1944-1951


14:30 – 16:00: Epilogue: the American Empire

  • Focus: the American Empire, the last Empire? The end of Nation-States and the creation of a new world order, a world of “empires”? Discussing Toni Negri’s book, Empire


  • Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Empire, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 2001

Page last updated on 18 August 2017

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