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Empires and their Environments: A Comparative Examination of the Relationship between Imperialism and Global Environment in Pre-Modern and Morden Times


John M. MacKenzie

University of Lancaster

The study of the environmental causes and consequences of the extension of empires was slow to become a central concern of imperial historians, but in recent decades such studies have developed considerably.  However, it remains surprising the extent to which studies of both empires of the past and of modern times either barely mention the environment or treat such contexts as almost incidental to imperial power.  The argument of this lecture will be that the environments in which empires develop and extend their exploitative reach are so central that we should perhaps retitle the lecture ‘Environments and their Empires’. Examples will be drawn from the empires of the past (following from the speaker’s editorship of the Wiley Blackwell four-volume Encyclopaedia of Empire), as well as comparative modern European empires.  The lecture will also consider new ‘turns’ in the consideration of imperial environments, particularly the realisation that we have to understand coastal, riverine, estuarial and lacustrine environments as well as the inland and continental ones that have received more attention.  


May 17, 2017


Internationales Kolleg Morphomata
Weyertal 59

50937 Köln