Connecting Empires – A Centre Talk by Richard Drayton This Wednesday

ExeterRobert Fletcher
University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @rsgfletcher

Identifying the differences between empires can improve our understanding of the phenomenon of imperialism, and shed new light on respective experiences of empire. But the emergent similarities are no less compelling, and prompt us to re-examine familiar notions of competition, conflict and ‘Scrambles’ between hostile imperial powers.

One of the issues of great interest to us at the Exeter Centre for Imperial and Global history is how far imperial culture should be seen as inherently transnational, permeating not only the border between ‘metropole’ and ‘periphery’, but also the boundaries between empire-builders themselves. Where and why were practices and ideas formed in dialogue between imperial actors, and what do we stand to gain by considering this a form of ‘co-imperialism’?

draytonThis Wednesday we’re excited to welcome Professor Richard Drayton (King’s College London) to Exeter to talk on the subject of ‘Masked Condominia: Pan-European Collaboration in the History of Imperialism, c. 1500 to the present’. Richard sets out the problem as follows:

The Trans-European history of imperialism — how Europeans collaborated between, across, and below nation states in the domination of Africa, the Americas, and Asia – is an important new research question. In a sense it is not a new one: in September 1914, Kautsky published his famous essay on ‘Ultraimperialism’. He speculated, along lines already opened up by Hobson, about a future age in which the European imperial powers would operate as a pacific combine rather than making war on each other. In reality, such trans-European imperial collaboration had been a fundamental part of European expansion since the sixteenth century, even if imperial historiography, grounded in the national paradigm, has usually focussed exclusively on either the stories of Spain or France or Britain overseas, or on European interstate competition.

We need to pay attention to that trans-European history of expansion, and in particular to the ubiquitous phenomenon of the condominium, where power is shared, even if such sharing has often been masked by the apparent dominance of one power.   Formal coalitions, and the less visible, but far more important transnational European pooling of resources, have been central to all periods of the global projection of European power from Habsburg expansion in the Americas and Asia c. 1550, to the emergence of Dutch, French, and British seaborne empires, to the Pax Britannica, to the twentieth-century Wars of the British Succession, to the post-1945 United States-led Cold War system, to contemporary neo-imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and Libya.

This is, as Richard points out, an emerging field of enquiry. It’s also one that presents the historian of empire with a fresh set of challenges. But exploring these similarities and connections may also help us to reframe imperial histories in a wider European context.

When: 25 February 2015, 3:30-5:00pm

Where: Amory 219, Rennes Drive, University of Exeter

One thought on “Connecting Empires – A Centre Talk by Richard Drayton This Wednesday

  1. A forthcoming collection edited by Roland Cvetkovski and Volker Barth, titled “Imperial Co-operation and Transfer, 1870-1930: Empires and Encounters” (Bloomsbury) (, covers some of this. See my own contribution here:

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