What the rulers of empire can teach us about navigating today's increasingly interconnected world
The empires of the past were far-flung experiments in multinationalism and multiculturalism, and have much to teach us about navigating our own increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Until now, most recent scholarship on empires has focused on their subject peoples. Visions of Empire looks at their rulers, shedding critical new light on who they were, how they justified their empires, how they viewed themselves, and the styles of rule they adopted toward their subjects.
Krishan Kumar provides panoramic and multifaceted portraits of five major European empires—Ottoman, Habsburg, Russian/Soviet, British, and French—showing how each, like ancient Rome, saw itself as the carrier of universal civilization to the rest of the world. Sometimes these aims were couched in religious terms, as with Islam for the Ottomans or Catholicism for the Habsburgs. Later, the imperial missions took more secular forms, as with British political traditions or the world communism of the Soviets.
Visions of Empire offers new insights into the interactions between rulers and ruled, revealing how empire was as much a shared enterprise as a clash of oppositional interests. It explores how these empires differed from nation-states, particularly in how the ruling peoples of empires were forced to downplay or suppress their own national or ethnic identities in the interests of the long-term preservation of their rule. This compelling and in-depth book demonstrates how the rulers of empire, in their quest for a universal world order, left behind a legacy of multiculturalism and diversity that is uniquely relevant for us today.
Krishan Kumar is University Professor and William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. His books include The Idea of Englishness: English Culture, National Identity, and Social Thought; From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society: New Theories of the Contemporary World; and 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals.
"In this extraordinary volume, Krishan Kumar provides us with a brilliant tour of some of history's most important empires, demonstrating the critical importance of imperial ideas and ideologies for understanding their modalities of rule and the conflicts that beset them. In doing so, he interrogates the contested terrain between nationalism and empire and the legacies that empires leave behind."—Mark R. Beissinger, Princeton University
"This is an excellent book with original insights into the history of empires and the discourses and rhetoric of their rulers and defenders. Kumar's writing is lively and free of jargon, and his research is prodigious. He manages to bring clarity and perspective to a complex subject."—Ronald Grigor Suny, author of "They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide
"A masterly piece of work."--Anthony Pagden, author of The Burdens of Empire: 1539 to the Present
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
1 The Idea of Empire 1
2 The Roman Empire: Parent of Empire 37
3 The Ottoman Empire 74
4 The Habsburg Empire 145
5 The Russian and Soviet Empires 213
6 The British Empire 310
7 The French Empire: “Imperial Nation-State” 387
8 Epilogue: Nations after Empires 465