Empires in Modern Europe

Block Seminar

Organised by Prof. Pieter M. Judson and Prof. Lucy Riall
29 January, 19-20 February, Sala Belvedere/Sala del Capitolo
Admin. Assistant: Francesca Parenti  
Seminar readings


Seminar Description

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe saw the rise of self-described nation states at the same time that global and continental empires continued to dominate the state system. The endurance of those empires—indeed the emergence of new empires in the twentieth century-challenges the claims that the nation-state was somehow inevitable, natural, or even necessary in the modern world. Both the proponents of nationhood who idealized national homogeneity and the proponents of multi-cultural imperial models had to adapt their belief systems to the era of mass mobilization that created new forms of political participation, symbolic identifications, social organization, and rituals of community at all levels of European societies.

This seminar explores the ways in which the experience of Empire shaped and influenced European (metropolitan) societies, focusing on how both empires and nation states constituted their ideals and political cultures, often as mirror images of each other, in an age of growing mass political participation and mobilization. In particular, it investigates the ways in which proponents of both imperial and nationalist principles tried to shape European identities, practices, and politics, and it examines how local people engaged those principles and practices to pursue their particular ends. Hence, it is not a seminar that takes the nature of colonial or imperial rule as its starting point, although it does examine legacies of both in European sites. Instead, our Europe-based approach enables us to examine so-called “overseas empires” and “land-based empires” together in the same frame, and 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 deconstruct rather than to construct typologies of empire.

Seminar Structure (18 hours):

Friday 29 January 2016, 9.30-11.30; 13.30-15.30; 16.15-18.15
Friday 19 February 2016, 10.00-12.00; 13.30-15.30; 16.30-18.30
Saturday 20 February 2016, 10.00-11.30; 11.45-13.30; 15.00-17.00



29 January 2016 (Sala Belvedere) - Mobilities and Travel

Session 1: Global Space and ‘Civilising Missions’ (09:30-11:30)

  • J. Osterhammel, The transformation of the world: A global history of the nineteenth century (Princeton, 2014 [2009], ch.17: ‘Civilisation and exclusion’, pp.826-55
  • M. Harper and S. Constantine, Migration and Empire (Oxford, 2010), ch.6: ‘Exile into bondage? Non-white migrants and settlers’

Session 2: Unfree Labour (13:30-15:30)

  • C. Anderson, ‘Convicts and coolies: rethinking indentured labour in the nineteenth century,’ Slavery and Abolition, 2009, 30 (1), 9-109
  • A. Frank, ‘The children of the desert and the laws of the sea: Austria, Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire, and the Mediterranean slave trade in the nineteenth century,’ American Historical Review, 2012, 117 (2), 387-409
  • A. Ferrer, ‘Cuban slavery and Atlantic anti-slavery,’ in J. Fradera and C. Schmidt-Nowara (eds) Slavery and anti-slavery in Spain’s Atlantic Empire (New York, 2013)

Session 3: Migrants (16.15-18:15)

  • C. Moya, Cousins and strangers: Spanish immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1950 (Berkeley, 1998), ch.7
  • T. Zahra, The Great Departure. Emigration from Western Europe and the making of the Free World (2016), ch.2


19 February 2016 (Sala del Capitolo, Badia) -  Knowledge and Power

Session 4: The Control of Trade (10:00-12:00)

  • G. Cushmann, Guano and the opening of the Pacific World (2014), chs.3 & 4

Session 5: Scientific Knowledge (13.30-15.30)

  • D. Atkinson, ‘Constructing Italian Africa’ in R. Ben Ghiat and Mia Fuller (eds), Italian colonialism (London, 2005)
  • B. Sorgoni, ‘Italian anthropology and the Africans’ in P. Palumbo (ed.), A Place in the Sun: Africa in Italian colonial culture from post-unification to the present (Berkeley, 2003)
  • A. Zimmerman, ‘Ruling Africa: Science as sovereignty in the German colonial Empire and its aftermath’ in B. Naranch and G. Eley (eds), German Colonialism in a Global Age (London, 2014)

Session 6: Colonies ‘at home’ (16:30-18:30)

  • E. Hajdarpasic, Whose Bosnia? Nationalism and political imagination in the Balkans, 1840-1914 (New York, 2015), ch.5
  • V. Greene, ‘The “Other” Africa: Giuseppe Pitré’s Mostra etnografica siciliana (1891-2),’ Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 2012, 17 (3), 288-309

Further Reading:

  • S. Conrad, ‘Internal colonialism in Germany: Culture wars, Germanification of the soil, and the global market imaginary,’ in Naranch and Eley (eds), German colonialism in a global age


20 February (Sala del Capitolo, Badia) - Colonial ‘Worlds’

Session 7: Lecture by Professor Saul Dubow (Queen Mary, University of London), "The Rediscovery of Lost British Worlds" (10:00-11:30)

Session 8: The British World (11:45-13:30)

  • S. Dubow, ‘How British was the British World? The case of South Africa,’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 2009, 37 (1), 1-27
  • J. Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo World, 1789-1939 (Oxford, 2009), conclusion [available as an ebook], plus see the same author’s reply to his critics: ‘Response: a cultural history of economics?’ Victorian Studies, 2010, 53(1), 116-121
  • J. G. A. Pocock, ‘British History: a plea for a new subject,’ The Journal of Modern History (1975), 47(4), 601-21

Session 9: New Worlds? (15:00-17:00)

  • H. Glen Penny, ‘Historiographies in dialogue: Beyond the categories of Germans and Brazilians,’ German History, 2015, 33 (3), 347-66
  • Frederick Schulze, ‘Auslandsdeutschtum in Brazil (1919-1941). Global discourses and local histories’, German History, 2015, 33 (3), 405-22

Page last updated on 18 August 2017

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