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DSPO 2345A - The Concept of Empire – from Rome to the European Union

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

From the Roman Empire to the Napoleonic Empire, from the American “Empire” to its Soviet rival, empires come in many shapes or forms. In spite of vast historical and geographical differences, the continuing use of this terminology points to its relevance in past and present political analysis. The goal of this course is to better understand the concept of empire through the study of successive incarnations of this political phenomenon. Using examples ranging from the very classic variations (Rome, the Caliphate, or Tsarist Russia) but also more contemporary avatars (colonial and post-colonial imperialism, or the idea of a world order), this course seeks to illustrate how empires are born, conquer, thrive and disappear in different civilizational ensembles. Each session will therefore elaborate on a particular empire to detail certain aspects of the concept, along 4 main thematic modules: (i) empires: body, mind and sword; (ii) empires and space; (iii) critique, opposition and extinction of empires and (iv) empires in a globalized world.


  • DUBOUCHET, Pierre A. (Diplomat)
  • ZAHIRI, Eva (Etudiante doctorante)

Course validation

Written essay at the end of the semester (40%), exposé and short debate (20% and 20% respectively), book review (20%).

Required reading

  • At least one of the following:
  • Herfried Münkler, Empires, the logic world domination, Cambridge, 2007
  • Peter Frankopan, The silk roads: a new history of the world, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
  • Anthony Pagden, The Burdens of Empire: 1539 to the present, Cambrigde University Press, 2015
  • Dominic Lieven, Empire: the Russian Empire and its rivals, J. Murray, 2000

Additional required reading

  • Odd Arne Westad, Restless Empire – China and the World since 1750, Basic Books, 2012
  • Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000
  • (if possible in French, three further options : )
  • Maurice Duverger, Le Concept d'Empire, PUF, 1980
  • Gabriel Martinez-Gros, Une brève histoire des empires, Seuil, 2014
  • Henri Pirenne, Mahomet et Charlemagne, PUF, 1937
  • Burbank & Cooper, Empires in world history: power and the politics of difference, Princeton University Press, 2010
  • Further references for each thematic session will be included in the course syllabus