Imperialisms, Ancient and Modern
George Mason University
"Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. We were not the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it, knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do". Thucydides 5.105 (Athenian speech to the Melians).
Every period of history has witnessed the military, cultural, and economic subjugation of one people by another the creation of "empire". The modern world has characterized the phenomenon as "imperialism," a term of such wide application as to be in danger of losing objective content. This course will investigate the different "imperialisms" of the ancient, medieval, and modern world, seeking to delineate characteristics, identify cultural and intellectual underpinnings, and distinguish the multi-varied forms in which one culture has sought to impose itself, directly or indirectly, upon another.
"Imperialism" has become a term of political abuse. In fact, it is a historical phenomenon with objective content, embedded in specific cultural, political, and economic circumstances of historical periods. We seek to define and give content to the concept of "Imperialism," focusing on three areas of inquiry:
1. Why do cultures, ancient and modern, seek to impose their rule upon foreign peoples? What are the factors political, social, cultural, economic, and military driving their expansion?
2. How does one culture impose itself on another? What circumstances allow for the successful creation of "empire"?
3. How did, and do, imperialistic cultures justify their subjugation of foreign peoples?
Primary and secondary sources are assigned for each week. All primary sources must be read and pondered prior to class. They are generally short and have been selected to generate discussion and debate. Two secondary sources (scholarly articles) are also assigned for each week. The first article is broad in coverage and relatively brief. The second article is longer and provides a more in-depth treatment of the subject. Both articles listed for each week are required reading. From the second articles listed, the student will choose one for the article review assignment (see below).
The following topics will be covered:
A detailed syllabus of the class may be found here.
Assignments, Examinations and Grading
This course will consist of lectures and discussion. The lectures are supplementary to the readings. The discussions will cover aspects of the historical setting and cultural context. Students are expected to have prepared (i.e., digested and pondered) the assigned primary texts and article and to participate in a critique of their meaning and broader implications. All reasoned views are welcome.
Students will write two papers. Some thought is expected. Good writing is appreciated. Correct grammar is required.
The first paper (due at the time of the mid-term exam) will be an article critique. The student may choose from any of the articles listed second on the weekly syllabus. Here are some guidelines for the critique. The second paper (due before the Thanksgiving break) will be deal with a specific historial period of the student's choice. Here are some guidelines for the paper. Further details on the two papers will be provided in class.
There will be a mid-term and a final. These will consist of short identification of events, people, and places drawn from our readings. The identification items will be posted in advance, week by week, on the syllabus webpage. The exams will also contain essay questions drawn from the Discussion Questions posted with each week's reading. The exams will not be cumulative.
The papers will count 20% each, the mid-term 30% and the final 30%.
William L. Carey, Esq.
Blankingship & Keith, P.C.
4020 University Drive, Suite 300
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Office hours: I'll announce my office hours in class. Apart from office hours on campus, I am available anytime from 8 a.m. (usually at my law office, but you can try me at home as well) until 10 p.m.
There will be many handouts in class. There are also many electronic resources, linked below. The maps are particularly recommended.
rerum ratio ordinem temporum desiderat, regionum descriptionem - Cicero
Links on Imperialism: