In this seminar, we investigate a range of a-typical practitioners of what is sometimes called ‘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.
We do not focus primarily on definitions of empires or of colonial rule, although we do discuss the character and legacies of both. Instead we emphasize the many varieties of colonialism and the many possible, sometimes even hidden, layers of imperial rule in different global contexts. Thus, our approach examines a range of imperial practices and 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.