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Empire and Post-Empire




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


How did the arguably most successful continental and long-lasting dynastic empires of early modern 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 legitimacy 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 for Romanow Russia. The Qing based their rule on Manchu supremacy, and Manchu control of the military. This minority ruling over a vast majority of Han Chinese came under increasing pressure when Western powers challenged its military supremacy and its leadership. While the Ottoman dynasty was not as conspicuously an ‘outsider’ it had long based its leadership on a slave elite that adhered primarily to the House of Osman, and didn’t cherish any special connections to the Turkic background of the Ottomans and their early territories. European and Arabic challenges made the Ottomans more vulnerable to Turkic-Turkish sentiments. The Habsburgs, finally, long since founding their rule on dynastic and religious loyalty of the elites rather than on any national sentiments, experienced greater stress because of Prussian, French and Russian military advances, while the status aparte of the Hungarian (Magyar) nation in addition to the privileged position of the German language undermined Czech loyalty. In each of these cases, the dynasty sought to adapt to the double challenge of military defeat and internal turmoil. Did the loss of legitimacy originate largely in military defeat, or in the failure of the leadership to effectively adapt to national sentiments; to restyle their dynastic legitimacy into a more national context?

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.

Every week, in the first meeting I will present an overview of the theme under discussion through a powerpoint lecture, highlighting key aspects from the earlier history of the empires under discussion. You will be asked to prepare some general questions on the basis of preliminary introductory reading. In the second meeting we focus on the empire-to-nation or ‘post-empire’ discussion and you will prepare and present ‘QUARP’s’ (see below) on the texts studied for the meeting. ‘

Course Objectives

  • Understanding of the functioning of these three dynastic empires, in their pre-reform phase as well as in the 19th-century phase of adaptation;

  • Insight into the impact of post 1750 challenges and the balance between military/economic competition and internal erosion;

  • Understanding of key issues in the relevant literature, both per empire, and in terms of general issues;

  • Individual and collective practice in the comparative method;

  • A more distanced and analytical approach to current issues relating to legitimacy, shifting global balances of economic and political power, and the positioning of leaders and leading elites in such processes.

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.


Attendance and preparation are a necessary part of this course (as of any other academic course, particularly at LUC). Your overall attitude in class will rank among the criteria of course evaluation, for 20%.

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. I will stipulate in the weekprogamme below 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 [to be announced] (i.e. on the day preceding our meeting). Please send the texts and word documents attached to your email, to my Leiden emailaddress In case of a university computer server breakdown, you can use my alternative email address

Presentations will be organized on Week 5. The format of the presentations (individual-group; with our without written basis) will be established following information about the number of students in our group. See some suggestions on the presentation below. Note that individual presentations will determine 20% of your overall evaluation for this course.

  1. Do not read from paper, use brief notes or a powerpoint handout print for your orientation
  2. Decide whether you need a handout with maps, an overview of relevant data, main conclusions/theses of your work; this can help you to concentrate your presentation on key issues
  3. Do not provide numerous details in your presentation, but do give concrete examples for general points you want to make
  4. Organize your presentation around a clear question ideally providing a basis for your essay (see below); invite suggestions and comments from the group
  5. End with a clear thesis, and make clear the relevance of your specific theme for the overall course theme.
  6. After ca 10 minutes, I will briefly interrupt you to ask you to wrap up your talk; after 15 minutes I will intervene to end the presentation. The best way to control timing is to practice with an audience.
  7. As a rule I ask two students to evaluate briefly the presentation, always including at least one good aspect, and one point that could have been better. My evaluation follows, though more specific points as well as evaluation marks will be discussed between me and the presenting student after the meeting

A final 3000-word essay, ideally extending and substantiating the theme of your presentation forms a major part, 40% of the course evaluation. Essays need to be handed in before [to be announced] (word attachment/email); each of you will read and comment two papers and there will be discussion of the papers on [to be announced]. Second versions, based on peer review and on my comments, need to be handed in before [to be announced] You will read and comment two other essays before our meeting of [to be announced] – this peer-review forms part of the 40% essay evaluation. See the suggestions below:


  1. Provide footnotes for ALL quotes and specific interpretations or data, but leave. general knowledge (dates etc.) unannotated. Make sure ALL relevant sources have been listed in your notes.
  2. Provide a title page
  3. Make sure to use a consistent and clear paragraph layout throughout your paper
  4. Print your document on one side of the page only, leaving room for comments
  5. Feel free to send preliminary drafts of parts of your text before the deadline, but never hand in texts you could correct or improve easily yourself
  6. Try to avoid a strictly narrative and descriptive approach;


Compulsory Literature

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

2) Recommended Literature & Other Sources (e.g. websites, Academic Journals, documentaries etc.)

Sections from the following books:

  • Karen Barkey, Mark von Hagen, ed., After empire : multiethnic societies and nation-building: the Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg empires (Boulder 1997).

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

  • Gary B. Cohen, ‘Neither Absolutism nor Anarchy: New Narratives on Society and Government in Late Imperial Austria’, Austrian History Yearbook 29 (1998), pp. 37-61

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

  • C. Patterson-Giersch, ‘“Grieving for Tibet”: Conceiving the Modern State in Late-Qing Inner Asia’, China Perspectives 3 (2008) pp. 4-18.

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

  • Joseph Esherick, ‘How the Qing became China’, in: Joseph Esherick, Hasan Kayali, Eric Van Young, ed., Empire to Nation. Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Lanham 2006). (see also Barkey on Ottoman-Habsburgs

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

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

  • Alan Sked, The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire 1815-1918 (London 1989)

Note that the Leiden Library ( well as the KB (Royal Library The Hague: have a substantial digital library, including the articles listed above under compulsory literature. Also, works of reference such as Cambridge general or regional histories can be consulted and downloaded from these sites, see e.g.

Contact Information

Room: Huizinga 264 (phone: 071-527-2759)

Weekly Overview


Preparation for first session