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Sovereignty and Imperialism: Non-European Powers in the Age of Empire

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In the heyday of empire, most of the world was ruled, directly or indirectly, by the European powers. On the eve of the First World War, only a few non-European states had maintained their formal sovereignty: Abyssinia (Ethiopia), China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Persia (Iran), and Siam (Thailand). Some others kept their independence for a while, but then succumbed to imperial powers, such as Hawaii, Korea, Madagascar, and Morocco. Facing imperialist incursion, the political elites of these countries sought to overcome their political vulnerability by engaging with the European powers and seeking recognition as equals.

The conference ‘Sovereignty and Imperialism: Non-European Powers in the Age of Empire’ will explore how diplomats, military officials, statesmen, and monarchs of the independent non-European states struggled to keep European imperialism at bay. It will address four major aspects of the relations of these countries with the Western imperial powers: armed conflict and military reform (Panel 1); capitulations, unequal treaties, and subsequent engagement with European legal codes (Panel 2); royalty and courts (Panel 3); and diplomatic encounters (Panel 4). Bringing together scholars from across the world, the conference will be the first attempt to provide comparative perspectives on the non-European powers’ engagement with the European empires in the era of high imperialism.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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