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Lecture

Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order

Date
Tuesday 14 May 2019
Time
Location
Wijnhaven
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Room
2.64

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About the lecture

What accounts for the rise of the state, the creation of the first global system, and the dominance of the West? The conventional answer asserts that superior technology, tactics, and institutions forged by Darwinian military competition gave Europeans a decisive advantage in the war over other civilizations from 1500 onward. In contrast, Empires of the Weak argues that Europeans actually had no general military superiority in the early modern era. J. C. Sharman shows instead that European expansion from the late fifteenth to the late eighteenth centuries is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African polities, diseases in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent to war and trade at sea.

Europeans were overawed by the mighty Eastern empires which pioneered key military innovations and were the greatest early modern conquerors. Against the view that the Europeans won for all time, Sharman contends that the imperialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a relatively transient and anomalous development in world politics that concluded with Western losses in various insurgencies. If the twenty-first century is to be dominated by non-Western powers like China, this represents a return to the norm for the modern era.

Bringing a revisionist perspective to the idea that Europe ruled the world due to military dominance, Empires of the Weak demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order. In this session, Professor Sharman will be discussing his book and this will be followed by a Q & A.

About the speaker

Jason Sharman is the Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, as well as the Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations and a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He was educated in Australia, Russia, and the United States, and earlier held positions at the American University in Bulgaria, the University of Sydney and Griffith University. Sharman’s research is focused on the regulation of global finance, especially as relates to money laundering, tax, corruption, and offshore financial centers, and the international relations of the early modern world. His latest books are The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management (Cornell University Press), and Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order (Princeton University Press).

About the seminars

The Diplomacy and Global Affairs (DGA) Research Seminar is a series launched by the Research Group on Diplomacy and Global Affairs at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs. The seminars of internationally acknowledged guest researchers and faculty members deal with current research topics in diplomacy, international relations, global affairs, and political economy broadly conceived and target a broad audience through their interdisciplinary focus.

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