WiSe 15/16: The United States and Other Empires in World History
Imperial history is en vogue. While nationalism and colonialism has clearly dominated historians’ agenda since at least the 1980s, the recent interest in comparative and global history has ... read more
Imperial history is en vogue. While nationalism and colonialism has clearly dominated historians’ agenda since at least the 1980s, the recent interest in comparative and global history has reintroduced the idea of an “empire” as an analytical category. From John Darwin to Charles Maier, renowned historians have increasingly revisited the meaning and function of world empires such as China and Great Britain. How does the U.S. factor into this tale?
An “empire” (lat. power) encompasses a geographically extensive territory of states and people with highly diverse ethnic or cultural backgrounds, governed by a ruler or a group of rulers. The history of empires, in turn, describes the rise and the history of hegemonic states who held imperial ambitions, i.e. whose intention it was to dominate and colonize within the international system. In the context of the new world and global history, imperial history examines the impact of imperial structures on the movement of people, goods, and ideas among regions and continents.
This lecture-seminar seeks to fulfill two premises: first, we will spend a significant amount of time looking at the history of the rise and fall of empires across two millennia, including ancient Rome, China, and Islam. Second, within that context, we shall try to situate the meaning, function and impact of the United States as a typical – or atypical – empire. Central questions include: How can we define “empires” across time and space? Which criteria are typical for empires and how do they differ? How has the profile of empires changed – or remained the same – over time? Most importantly: what kind of empire is the U.S., how does it “fit” into imperial history, and what conclusions does that history allow to draw us for the present and the future?
Each session consists of a lecture followed by discussion (50:50). In the course of the seminar, students will look at primary as well as search for and prepare secondary sources to deepen their understanding of how to engage critically with both to produce a scholarly essay. Student teams will read all relevant primary sources, then meet with the instructor one week prior to a session during office hours to present her with at least two articles relating directly to the topic of the following week and complementing each other. Teams will explain their choice, summarize essays, and make a recommendation which essays should be used in class.
Course requirements include: research and discussion of a secondary source (journal article or book chapter); a response paper, as well as the development of an individual syllabus; active class participation, preparation of reading & 1 question (in writing) p. week to be posted on Blackboard. No more than two no-shows are acceptable. Weekly readings are chosen by individual student teams. One print-out copy will be available in the library. To obtain a “Leistungsschein,” you are strongly encouraged to do so in the second part of this module (Modul A Hauptseminar), as the present course is a survey course (Grundlagenveranstaltung) rather than a seminar providing in-depth examination. close