HIS 380L • Imperialism: Classical Debates
This course will take a historiographical and analytical view of some of the classical contributions to interpreting the phenomenon of imperialism. The aim will be to understand the motives of the authors, the broader influences on their lives and work, the degree to which their views were plausible and illuminating, their subsequent influence, and where they stand today at a time when a 'new' form of imperial history is being invented. The term 'classic' is used with some latitude, though a case can be made for saying that the earliest enduring thoughts on this subject were those of Thucydides and, later, of Ibn Khaldun. This is so because the problem of power in inter-state relations is eternal. As will become clear, it is the forms and purposes taken by the exercise of power that have changed, provoking new explanations from commentators who have tried to understand the novelty of their own times. Without ignoring the truly classic authors, the course will focus on their modern counterparts: on the one hand, the radical inspiration stemming from Marx, continuing through Lenin, and culminating (for the moment at least) in the debate between Old Left and New Left over 'late' capitalism, neo-colonialism, and the dependency thesis; on the other, the liberal debate located in the views of Smith, Cobden and Schumpeter and developing via the work of modern scholars such as Gallagher and Robinson, Platt, Brunschwig, Marseille and others. This course complements Course 380L offered in the Spring semester (2005), but can be studied independently.
Each of the classics merits a course in itself. The precise selection of topics and the degree of detail in which they can be studied will be determined partly by the need to secure a span of themes and partly by the interests of the students taking the course. In each case an attempt will be made to balance abstract analysis with historical illustrations drawn from the research of scholars who have been inspired by one of the 'master works'.