nl en

Empire and Post-Empire


Admission requirements

This course builds on 100-level courses in Human Interaction and World Politics and moves towards 300-level courses in these majors.


How did the arguably most successful continental dynastic empires of Europe, West Asia and Asia cope with the rise of the nation-state? Habsburgs, Ottomans and Qing were confronted by a wave of military-fiscal escalation, reform, and revolution in Europe that fundamentally altered global balances of power, and introduced powerful new ideologies. Following different chronologies and patterns, each of these empires was confronted by two mutually reinforcing challenges: a relative decline in political and economic position among global competitors, and an internal opposition questioning dynastic legitimation itself. For the Habsburgs, the Ottomans and the Qing the realignment of dynasty and nation or nations presented more complications than for the emerging European nation states or even Romanow Russia. This course will examine the intricacies of this process. Rather than following the decline of empire at the level of histoire événementielle, we will study the processes of adaptation from a comparative perspective, beginning with the key factors underpinning the success of these empires during their ‘classic’ phases, and tracing various strategies of adaptation from the eighteenth century up to the early twentieth-century cataclysm.

Course objectives

  • Understanding of the functioning of these three dynastic empires;

  • Insight into the impact of post 1750 challenges;

  • Understanding of key issues in the relevant literature;

  • Individual and collective practice in the comparative method;

  • A more distanced and analytical approach to current issues relating to legitimation of rule and power of leading elites.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

This course asks the students to actively study and question a number of introductory readings. On the basis of discussion of these texts, and some general information given in a limited number of introductory lectures, students will choose a more specific theme which they will elaborate in the second part of the course.
Students will play a leading role in the second phase, through group presentations and roundtable debates. Each student will write an individual paper on one of the key issues of this course, ideally from a comparative perspective.

Assessment method

  1. Interactive engagement with course material: assessed in Class Participation (20% of final grade): ongoing
  2. Individual engagement with course readings: assessed in Weekly assignments (QUARP*, see footnote) (20% of final grade; weekly
  3. Understanding of course content : assessed in Presentation (20% of final grade): planned at start of course
  4. Expression of holistic understanding of the course: assessed through Final essay (3000 words:40% of final grade)

    QUARP: every week we prepare materials for discussion in class you write a ‘quarp’. This acronym hints at the logical sequence of a QUote or keyquote, a sentence or passage you find particularly relevant for the text under review; the Argument in which this particular quote plays a role of some importance; the Relation of this part of the text with the text as a whole (other paragraphs, chapters; or other articles read in the same week; a Problem you have identified in the text, either something you want more information about, or a shortcoming in the logical or empirical setup of the text. Together a QUARP about one particular text should never take more space than 400 words or one A-4 page. The instructor will stipulate in the weekly programme in the syllabus for which texts you need to hand in a QUARP. Note that this is a method that can help you to rapidly reach an analytical understanding of the materials we read. QUARPs are relevant mostly for secondary literature, but we can use a similar format for source readings. QUARPS need to be handed in weeks 1-2-3-4 at the latest on Sunday evening 19.00 (i.e. on the day preceding our meeting). Please send the texts and word documents to the instructor via email. ### Blackboard

This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

References to several articles articles will be made available on a blackboard page, with links to the Leiden Library digital services. Some texts will be made available in hard copy. A selection of titles we shall certainly read:

  • Selim Deringil, ‘The Invention of Tradition as Public Image in the Late Ottoman Empire, 1808 to 1908’: Comparative Studies in Society and History, 35, 1 (1993), pp. 3-29.

  • Pamela Crossley, ‘Nationality and Difference in China: The Post-Imperial Dilemma’, in: Joshua Fogel, ed. The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State: Japan and China (2005) pp. 138-158.

  • R. J. W. Evans, ‘Communicating Empire: The Habsburgs and their Critics, 1700–1919’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 19 (2009), pp. 117–138.
    Plus sections from the following books:

  • Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2002)

  • Joseph Escherick, Hasan Kayali, Eric Van Young, ed., Empire to Nation. Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Lanham 2006), pp. 229-259.

  • R. J. W. Evans, Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: essays on Central Europe, c. 1683-1867 (Oxford 2006)

  • John Mason, The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867-1918 (London 1996)

  • Karen Barkey, Empire of difference. The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge 2008)

  • William T. Rowe, China’s Last Empire. The Great Qing (Cambridge MA 2009)


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Prof. dr. J. Duindam

Weekly Overview

Announced in course syllabus

Preparation for first session

Please read Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2002) in preparation for the first QUARP assignment due on Sunday 28 August 2011.