Programme Copenhagen 2005 – University of Copenhagen

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Cost A36, Tributary Empires Compared

Conference 18-19 June 2005,
University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Arts
New Building 24.2.07, Njalsgade 120


Historical sociology of world-empire

Saturday 18 June

9.00 P. Bang (Copenhagen):
  ‘Cosmic’ Empire and the tradition of historical sociology
10.00 C. A. Bayly (Cambridge): 
 Religion, Liberalism and Empires:
British historians and their Indian critics in the nineteenth century
11.00 Andre Wink (Wisconsin, Madison): Post-nomadic empires
12.00 Muzaffar Alam (Chicago): 
The Making of an Imperial Political Culture: The Mughal Case
13.00 Lunch 

Historical sociology and the traditions of imperial rule

14.00 Johny Christensen (Copenhagen): Orbis into Urbs –
The Universal State and the Philosophical Ideas of a Cosmopolis
15.00 Amira K. Bennison (Cambridge): 
Islamic Empire in Theory and Practice – Ibn Khaldun’s Kitâb al-‘Ibar
15.50 Coffee
16.00 Fabrizio de Dono (Cambridge): Orientalism and Classicism –
  the British-Roman Empire of Lord Bryce and his Italian critics
17.00 Ebba Koch (Vienna): Orpheus at the Mughal Court:
  An Universal Symbol of the Golden Age
19.00 Dinner at Restaurant Grisobasovitz, Overgaden neden Vandet 17, Christianshavn

Sunday 19 June

Empire and state-formation
9.00 H. Berktay (Sabanci): Disinventing Eurocentric Feudalism and developing
  a comparative, integrative vocabulary for the Ottoman Empire
10.00 G. Salmeri (Pisa): The character of political life in the Greek cities
  of the Roman empire
11.00 R. Bin Wong (UCLA): The Chinese Agrarian Empire
12.00 Dominic Lieven (LSE): Agrarian Empire and modernity
13.00 Lunch
14.15-17.00 Meeting of the Management Committee.

Papers will be of approximately 30 minutes each, followed by some 20-30 minutes discussion.

About the topic 

Through the ages the universal empires of the agrarian age have been seen as either the harbinger of law, order and peace or on the contrary as the epitome of despotism, tyranny and oppression. Both images of “empire” still dominate popular perception and current intellectual theorising. In that way, the “grand spectacle” of empire continues to fascinate and occupy our attention as witnessed by the massive success of works so diverse as Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (1989) and Hart & Negri’s speculative, neo-marxist manifesto Empire (2000).
The seminar will attempt to re-examine this intellectual tradition in the first instance as represented by some of the great thinkers of historical sociology such as Montesquieu, Adam Ferguson, Marx, Max Weber, Ernest Gellner and their general models of  imperial states, but in the second instance also in broader fashion by looking at some of their predecessors. Xenophon, Polybios, Tacitus, Ibn Khaldun, Abu Fazl, to name but some of the more prominent, would all seem to warrant closer attention in any attempt to understand the experience of universal agrarian empires. The aim, however, is not to produce “pure” intellectual history. The objective is to improve our comparative understanding and models of the tributary empires in history. Hence we wish to discuss the theoretical tradition in close connection with present historiographies of “traditional” empires such as the Roman, Ottoman, and Mughal. What characterises these imperial polities as state-systems? Some central themes could be:
Models of tributary empires; Poly-ethnicity: co-existence and conflict/resistance of different ethnic and cultural groups (Romans, Greeks, Jews; Muslims and Hindus; Turks, Orthodox Christians, and Arabs), élites and peasants, and cities and pastoralists or brigands. The character of frontiers, patrimonial-bureaucratic systems, types of imperialism, character of the imperial polity and elite formation.