G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires

The transformation of imperial space: a transimperial perspective, ca. 1790–1940

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 9:00 – 11:00

    Friday, 26 June - 14:00 – 16:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires
Convenor
  • Geert Castryck (Leipzig University)
  • Megan Maruschke (Leipzig University)
Chair
  • Frederick Cooper (New York University)
Commentator
  • Peter C. Perdue (Yale University)
  • Jane Burbank (New York University)
Panelists
  • Jane Burbank (New York University)
  • Jelmer Vos (University of Glasgow)
  • Nadin Heé (Free University of Berlin)
  • Megan Maruschke (Leipzig University)
  • Yasmine Najm (Leipzig University)
  • Peter C. Perdue (Yale University)
  • Emily Whewell (MPI for European Legal History)
  • Daniel Hedinger (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)

Papers

  • Geert Castryck
    Introduction: Transformation of Imperial Space
  • Jane Burbank
    The Spatial Imperative of Russian Empire

    The Spatial Imperative of Russian Empire

    Russia emerged as a polity in a particular and demanding space, one that both enabled and constrained the formation of empire. This “Eurasian” environment could tolerate only certain kinds of large-scale political formations. Successful political implantation in this region of widely dispersed populations required that rulers work through intermediary layers of control and that they recognize the differences among the polity’s “unlike” subjects. This paper explores the consequences of Russia’s geopolitical location for its long-term governing practices, directed toward both insiders and outsiders to the imperial polity.
  • Jelmer Vos
    Labour at Angola’s coffee plantations in comparative perspective

    Labour at Angola’s coffee plantations in comparative perspective

    In northern Angola, coffee plantations were the quintessential manifestation of empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as they transformed not only landscapes but also the lives of thousands of Africans who went to work for them. This paper analyses labour relations at European coffee plantations in Angola during the twentieth-century African coffee boom. As in other parts of the continent, coffee production in Angola expanded rapidly between 1930 and 1960. In Angola that expansion involved the development of a settler economy, although African smallholders also expanded their production. Settler farms in Angola depended on both free and forced wage labour, but to many contemporary observers, plantation labour in Angola was analogous to slavery, confirming views of Portuguese colonial rule in Africa as backward and extraordinarily exploitative. On the one hand, this paper traces the roots of Portugal’s forced labour regime in nineteenth-century colonial ideologies and labour organisations. On the other hand, it argues that forced labour was a solution to a specifically twentieth-century problem, namely the heavy labour demands of an expanding settler economy. To understand the particularities of the Angolan plantation economy, this paper will compare Angola with other settler and mixed economies in colonial Africa and with the labour regimes of comparable coffee economies elsewhere in the global south.
  • Nadin Heé
    Tuna and the Indo-Pacific as a transimperial space

    Tuna and the Indo-Pacific as a transimperial space

    Oceans are typically referred to as spaces in-between empires. In this vein, they are referred to as inter-imperial spaces, where knowledge, actors or commodities travel between empires. The reduction of the oceans as a space, that enables inter-imperial or inter-national connectivity can be seen as a symptom of a terrestrial bias in Empire Studies. Even if historians are concerned with maritime Empires, they have generally treated the sea as a surface or a void, over which goods, people or ideas move over or which are controlled by naval ships. Most typically for this branch of scholarship is the description of the British Empire as a maritime empire. By doing so, we cannot really overcome the inherently imperially defined geographic and cultural containers in spite of the goal to do so. Studies on so-called maritime empires very much focus on the ocean as a surface where commodities, people or knowledge move, and see oceans as a means of interconnectedness and dominance through trade or naval force. I propose a fresh approach. We will gain new insights, so my argument goes, if we see the ocean not only as a surface, but also look at it as a multidimensional space, where the pelagic dimension is crucial. Through this, we can also reach a new definition of imperial spaces. Empirically I will use tuna as a monocle and focus on the Indo-Pacific as a transimperial space. This enables us to look at brokers in-between empires, ranging from the Japanese, the French, Italian and the US and well as various form of imperial competition and cooperation in defining this space.
  • Megan Maruschke
    Yasmine Najm
    The French and American Nation States with Imperial Extensions: A Comparative and Transimperial Perspective in the 19th Century

    The French and American Nation States with Imperial Extensions: A Comparative and Transimperial Perspective in the 19th Century

    Following their revolutions in 1776 and 1789, the US gained its independence from Britain while France maintained its colonies as it began consolidating a national, territorial metropole. Though the historiography of the age of revolutions has stressed the entanglements between revolutionary actors, these revolutions have not been the end of a comparative or transimperial gaze. Following revolution, both France and the US reorganized their state space in a similar hierarchical vein: as nation states with imperial extensions. This paper investigates several hotspots of empire in the 19th century to understand French and American experiences with the organization of imperial space that reflects both transfers and entanglements with other actors at the edge of their empires as well as between France and the US.
  • Peter C. Perdue
    Paris, Beijing, and Vienna in 1900: A Global Moment

    Paris, Beijing, and Vienna in 1900: A Global Moment

    At the turn of the twentieth century, in a brilliant spectacle, the Western powers and Japan demonstrated their imperial prowess at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Several months later, the same powers invaded China to lift the siege of the foreign legations by the Boxers and the Qing government. The Qing government fell to its nadir, but China’s inextricable links to global trends soon brought dramatic change. Meanwhile, in fin-de-siècle Vienna, an extraordinary community of scientists, artists, philosophers, and architects redefined the meaning of modernity, and set the conceptual stage for the coming century. In this critical decade of 1900, entangled movements of imperialism, trade war, anarchism, and racial nationalism, engaged the Chinese people and many others in reshaping global and national spaces. This paper examines some of the consequences of these interlinked processes and events.
  • Emily Whewell
    Re-imagining Territory: Imperial Jurisdiction in the British Empire

    Re-imagining Territory: Imperial Jurisdiction in the British Empire

    As the British Empire rapidly expanded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, British colonial governments and imperial authorities created new laws to support their imperial regimes. Many of these newly created laws either emanated from London, or were modelled on metropolitan legislation. One key concept in many of these Acts, Orders in Council, and treaties, was the notion of ‘territory’. Often defined explicitly or implicitly as the geographical limit of the nation-state with clearly delimited borders of jurisdiction, the concept was ill-suited to its application in many places of the British Empire. In this paper, I draw upon case studies from different regions of the British Empire to demonstrate how the concept was highly problematic in legislation related to criminal justice, and how jurists resolved this legal tension in practice. I first examine the classification of ‘territory’ and its tension with the term ‘jurisdiction’. Second, I explore the problems associated with legal powers over seamen accused of criminal offences and the understanding of ‘territorial waters’. Finally, I show how the principle of ‘extraterritorially’ was accommodated into many policing laws that were intended to be limited by ‘territorial’ boundaries. I end by arguing that imperial legal practitioners often attempted to de-territorialise metropolitan legislation, and reimagined their imperial legal powers with a new spatial understanding of jurisdiction that considered trans-regional connections, the fluidly of borders and the global movement of people within and across empires.
  • Daniel Hedinger
    Japan’s Place in Transimperial History. Manchuria as a Hotspot of Imperial Transformation in the Interwar Period

    Japan’s Place in Transimperial History. Manchuria as a Hotspot of Imperial Transformation in the Interwar Period

    Japan is crucial in the imperial history of the modern world because it was the only major non-Western power to participate in the great imperialist game. As such, Japan’s emergence was a challenge and a provocation in itself. But in the interwar years, especially in the context of the “Manchurian experiment”, Japanese expansionism eventually even started to change the imperial game, as Manchukuo redefined spatial formation and imperial rule. However, historiographically the game-changing role of the Japanese Empire has been widely underrated, as it is often still placed in brackets in international scholarship on Empires and thereby marginalized. This contribution explores Manchuria as a hotspot of imperial transformation in the interwar period. It therefore traces in a transimperial perspective a phenomenon which could be described as Manchurian impact. To show this it follows the journey of a few imperial brokers, such as pan-Africanist W.E.B. Du Bois on their way through the new Empire. After seeing Hsinking, the capital of this Japan-dominated empire, Du Bois noted in his travel manuscript: “Clearly, this colonial effort of a colored nation is something to watch.”

Abstract

The imperial turn has put empire back on historians’ agenda. Beyond the investigation of particular empires in their individual contexts or the writing of comparative and connected histories between and across empires, the occupation with empire also opens up a reappraisal of the long intertwined trajectory of imperial, national, and international currents in conceiving, perceiving, and governing the world. The master narrative “from empire to nation-state” fails to do justice to the contingent co-constitution of empire and nation-state across time and space. It also disregards the sheer diversity of what empire means in different periods and cultures. The transimperial perspective of this panel seeks to investigate how the transformation of imperial space, the changing spatial significance(s) of empire, and the constellations of empire in relation to other spatial formats are shaped by the multiplicity or the convergence of empire – as a spatial format – across the globe. By spatial format, we mean that empire is a shared spatial frame of reference that underpins social practices and routines, institutionalization and symbolic representation. However, across time and space, the understanding, conceptualizations, or manifestations of empire evolve and differ, adapting to changing historical (spatial) orders as well as co-determining the transformation of these orders. Under the global condition, which gradually emerged around the middle of the 19th century, such adaptations can only unfold in (sometimes conflictual) interaction. In this panel, we want to draw attention to transregional connectedness, to intercultural transfers of imperial ideas and practices, and to “hotspots” of empire, particularly beyond a purely European experience. Combining perspectives from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe, considering territorial and non-territorial, landed and maritime empires, and including governance, interactions, legitimations and representations of empire, we seek to ask how different transregional and transimperial perspectives might complicate or sophisticate our understanding of the transformation of imperial space or of the spatial format(s) “empire”. Overall, we invite historians to consider the spatial format(s) of empire and the spatial constellation of empire, state, and global interconnectedness in the historical instances they investigate.