Nations and empires


Latest Popular


Animals and humans Anthropology Archaeology Automation and robotics Cities Demography and migration Economic history Economics Education Environmental history Fairness and equality Future of technology Gender Global history History History of technology Human rights and justice Information and communication Making Nations and empires Politics and government Poverty and development Progress and modernity Public health Race and ethnicity Religion The ancient world The environment The future War and peace Work

The Course of Empire: Destruction (1836) by Thomas Cole. Courtesy Met Museum, New York/Wikipedia

Essay/
Nations and empires
The road from Rome

The fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t a tragedy for civilisation. It was a lucky break for humanity as a whole

Walter Scheidel

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen

Bamangwato chief Seretse Khama addresses a tribal council meeting in March 1950. Under his leadership, between 1966 and 1980 Botswana had the fastest-growing economy in the world. Photo by Margarte Bourke-White/Time Life/Getty

Essay/
Nations and empires
How nations come together

Nations come with a vast array of peoples, languages and histories, but the strong ones share three simple things

Andreas Wimmer

Detail of a miniature of Arthur slaying the Spanish giant on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel (1471-1483), by Jean de Wavrin. Royal 15 E IV f. 156. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
Stories and literature
Empire of fantasy

By conquering young minds, the writing of J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis worked to recapture a world that was swiftly ebbing away

Maria Sachiko Cecire

Detail from Cerro Rico and the Imperial Municipality of Potosí (1758), by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío. Courtesy Museo Universitario Charcas, Sucre, Bolivia/AKG

Essay/
Cities
The first global city

High in the Andes, Potosí supplied the world with silver, and in return reaped goods and peoples from Burma to Baghdad

Kris Lane

Plaque depicting warrior and attendants (16th-17th century), Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Global history
Africa, in its fullness

The West focuses only on slavery, but the history of Africa is so much more than a footnote to European imperialism

Toby Green

A view of Singapore’s central business district from a hotel along Beach Road. Much of Singapore’s recent development has been built upon land reclaimed from the sea. Photo by Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Politics and government
The ungoverned globe

The end of the liberal order would unleash chaos; its continuance means unconstrained economic suffering. What to do?

Benjamin Studebaker

Berber women photographed in January 1932. Photo by Marcelin Flandrin/National Geographic

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Race on the mind

When Europeans colonised North Africa, they imposed their preoccupation with race onto its diverse peoples and deep past

Ramzi Rouighi

Photo by Bloomberg/Getty

Essay/
Nations and empires
Why nation-states are good

The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it

Dani Rodrik

Warships in a Heavy Storm (c1695), by Ludolf Bakhuysen. Courtesy Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam

Essay/
History of science
When pirates studied Euclid

How did the sailors of early modern Europe learn to traverse the world’s seas? By going to school and doing maths problems

Margaret Schotte

A poster of Kemal Atatürk by the entrance door of a house in Çeşme, Turkey. August 2015. Photo by Alfredo D’Amato/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Nations and empires
Turkey’s hard white turn

In 20th-century Turkey, modernisers turned to eugenics and claims of an ancient Asian past to argue that Turks were white

Murat Ergin

Fisherman at Saint Jean d’Acre in then Ottoman Syria, now Israel. Photo taken in 1891 by André Salles. Courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Essay/
Nations and empires
Cosmopolitan Ottomans

European colonisation put an abrupt end to political experiments towards a more equal, diverse and ecumenical Arab world

Ussama Makdisi

An 18th-century Indian Matchlock Musket from Lahore. Photo courtesy the Royal Armouries Collections

Essay/
Nations and empires
Guns and the British empire

Eighteenth-century Indian arms were as sophisticated as European. Then came the British Empire to drive industry backwards

Priya Satia

Vehicles on the Streets of Tokyo (1870) by Utagawa Yoshitori. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Nations and empires
The myth of Westernisation

Americans liked to believe that Japan was Westernising through the 20th century but Japan was vigorously doing the opposite

Jon Davidann

Early Anglo-Saxon helmet (late-6th to early 7th century) made in either Scandinavia or England, and discovered at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, United Kingdom. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Archaeology
The fight for ‘Anglo-Saxon’

Racists use it to bolster their ethnohistorical myths, but historians and archaeologists should not abandon the term

Howard Williams

Detail from Hannah Duston Killing the Indians (1847) by Junius Brutus Stearns. Courtesy Colby College Museum of Art; Gift of R Chase Lasbury and Sally Nan Lasbury

Essay/
War and peace
American torture

For 400 years, Americans have argued that their violence is justified while the violence of others constitutes barbarism

William Fitzhugh Brundage

Nissho Inoue at the time of his trial in June 1933. Photo courtesy the author

Essay/
Religion
Zen terror

Master Nissho Inoue and his band of assassins teach some uncomfortable truths about terrorism, for those who will hear

Brian Victoria

Children playing in the remains of King Henry’s Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti, 8 September 2017. Photo by Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
The king of Haiti’s dream

How a utopian vision of Black freedom and self-government was undone in a world still in thrall to slavery and racism

Marlene L Daut

Saint John the Evangelist Causes a Pagan Temple to Collapse (c1370) by Francescuccio Ghissi. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
The ancient world
Fiddling while Rome converts

A generation of pagan bureaucrats amassed wealth and status while Roman emperors Christianised the world around them

Edward Watts

Mahatma Gandhi visits the Greenfield Mill at Darwen during his tour of the cotton areas of Lancashire, England, in 1931. Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Essay/
History
History from below

What shaped the thought of E P Thompson, the great historian of ordinary working people and champion of their significance?

Priya Satia

France, 1950. Photo by Mark Kauffman/LIFE/Getty

Essay/
Nations and empires
Les Anglo-Saxons

Not just American or British, the Anglo-Saxon is a mirror to Frenchness: the country’s alter-ego and most feared enemy

Emile Chabal

Detail from Nagasaki Harbour (c1833-6), by Kawahara Keiga. Ink and colour on silk. On the left is the crescent-shaped island of Deshima (flying the national flag), from which the Dutch were the only Westerners to trade with Japan from 1641 to 1859. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Nations and empires
Asia had the upper hand

For centuries, Europeans in Asia were guests, trading partners and subordinates. Only much later did Empire seem imaginable

Chris Nierstrasz

European tourists having a picnic in a temple in Egypt, 1898. Photo by LL/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Who really owns the past?

Cultural heritage is an ideal imposed from above. It’s time to listen to what communities value about their own histories

Michael Press