New Book: Empires in World History, Power and the Politics of Difference, by Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper

Empires in World History, Power and the Politics of Difference. Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Empires--vast states of territories and peoples united by force and ambition--have dominated the political landscape for more than two millennia. Empires in World History departs from conventional European and nation-centered perspectives to take a remarkable look at how empires relied on diversity to shape the global order. Beginning with ancient Rome and China and continuing across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa, Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper examine empires' conquests, rivalries, and strategies of domination--with an emphasis on how empires accommodated, created, and manipulated differences among populations.

Burbank and Cooper examine Rome and China from the third century BCE, empires that sustained state power for centuries. They delve into the militant monotheism of Byzantium, the Islamic Caliphates, and the short-lived Carolingians, as well as the pragmatically tolerant rule of the Mongols and Ottomans, who combined religious protection with the politics of loyalty. Burbank and Cooper discuss the influence of empire on capitalism and popular sovereignty, the limitations and instability of Europe's colonial projects, Russia's repertoire of exploitation and differentiation, as well as the "empire of liberty"--devised by American revolutionaries and later extended across a continent and beyond.

With its investigation into the relationship between diversity and imperial states, Empires in World History offers a fresh approach to understanding the impact of empires on the past and present.

Jane Burbank is professor of history and Russian and Slavic studies at New York University. Her books include Intelligentsia and Revolution and Russian Peasants Go to Court. Frederick Cooper is professor of history at New York University. His books include Decolonization and African Society and Colonialism in Question.


"This is a very big book on an enormous subject. For anybody who assumes imperial history is all about Britain, with some 19th-century European imitators on the side, it will be something of a shock. For Burbank and Cooper, imperial history is world history. The authors also make a point popular among academics who hate the idea of borders keeping the underprivileged out of rich nations, that empires can be confederations of different peoples united by an all-encompassing ideal. 'Sovereignty can be shared, layered and transformed,' they write. Whether or not you agree with the implications of this argument, the weeks it will take bedtime history buffs to get through this book will be time well spent."--Stephen Matchett, The Australian


"This is the single best book about the relationship of empires and nations that I can think of."--Kenneth Pomeranz, author of The Great Divergence

"A major corrective to much of the literature about empire, this is destined to become a classic: it tackles a huge and topical theme, and moves at a fast pace, from Rome and Han Dynasty China, right down to the present. The coverage is sweeping and balanced. A stunning accomplishment."--Jeremy Adelman, Princeton University

"Timely and important, this book stresses the durability of empires from early times, across diverse historical eras, down to the present. The authors blur the line between the premodern and modern, and de-Europeanize history by stressing the importance of non-Western imperial experiences."--Robert Tignor, Princeton University

"This superb book redefines the field of empire and colonial studies. Careful not to reduce the complexity and variety of imperial experiences to fit a rigid or narrow definition, the authors find a fresh way to retell the story of empires, illuminating how they were maintained for such long periods, what made them, and why they collapsed. There is nothing comparable."--Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan


List of Illustrations vii
Preface xi

Chapter 1: Imperial Trajectories 1
Chapter 2: Imperial Rule in Rome and China 23
Chapter 3: After Rome: Empire, Christianity, and Islam 61
Chapter 4: Eurasian Connections: The Mongol Empires 93
Chapter 5: Beyond the Mediterranean: Ottoman and Spanish Empires 117

Chapter 6: Oceanic Economies and Colonial Societies: Europe, Asia, and the Americas 149
Chapter 7: Beyond the Steppe: Empire-Building in Russia and China 185
Chapter 8: Empire, Nation, and Citizenship in a Revolutionary Age 219
Chapter 9: Empires across Continents: The United States and Russia 251

Chapter 10: Imperial Repertoires and Myths of Modern Colonialism 287
Chapter 11: Sovereignty and Empire: Nineteenth-Century Europe and Its Near Abroad 331
Chapter 12: War and Revolution in a World of Empires: 1914 to 1945 369
Chapter 13: End of Empire? 413
Chapter 14: Empires, States, and Political Imagination 443

Suggested Reading and Citations 461
Index 481