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Imperial Power Structure as a World Historical Approach to Empires and Imperial Systems

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The concept of empire was a rather belated addition to themes of world and global history study, due in part to fear of meta-comparative analysis, as well as the inherrent political nature of those entities. Most standard historical narratives on empires do not investigate the underlying conditions of actually being or having an empire, thereby nullyfying possible avenues for comparison, especially across different modes of empire. This paper will establish a world historcal approach, then will employ the historical sociology of ‘power’ to both identify the ‘Imperial Power Structure’ and their inherrent spatial dynamics, specifically the effect of both nationalism and nation-state ideological frameworks upon them. The objective is to uncover the true health of historical empires as not only a partial result of, but also in spite of, international conditions. The Habsburg and Russian empires of the nineteenth century have been chosen as the initial units for comparison, as traditional dynastic organisational entities that were empires struggling to come to terms with ‘modernised’ nation-states that had empires. This endeavour is not searching for historical laws; rather another perspective for consideration when trying to better understand historical empires, non-formal imperial entities, or systems that appear imperial; including in the contemporary environment that increasingly seeks to understand the issues of spatiality and identity, as well as the shifting political and economic sands that have come to characterise the globalised world.

This talk is part of the World History Workshop series.

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