The Age of Empire

Susan Thorne
LS 770-34
Fall 2016
Thursdays, 6:15-8:45 PM, Sept. 1-Dec. 1 (no class on Nov. 24)
Carr 242

The U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted considerable reflection on the ethics and efficacy of US foreign policy.  This course locates these discussions in the very broad historical context of Europe’s colonial from Columbus to the present. We will be focusing primarily if not exclusively on the ways in which Empire(s) transformed European culture at least as much as the European colonial powers transformed colonial cultures and the cultures of colonized populations.  To what extent was Western civilization itself a product of the colonial encounter?  What role did colonialism play in the industrial revolution, on which Europe’s global dominance would increasingly depend? What role did the colonies play in making the European working class “safe” for democracy?  How has political culture in the overdeveloped world been affected by postcolonial migrations?  And, finally, what lessons might be drawn from the history of previous colonial encounters regarding the legal and ethical bases, as well as future prospects, of what some have begun to call the present age of American Empire?

Assignments include weekly posts of your reaction to the readings and an independent research paper.

About Susan Thorne

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s.