Kinetic Empires, 6 November 2013

‘Kinetic Empires’

Wednesday 6 November, 2013


2pm Welcome and opening remarks – Dr John Darwin (Nuffield, Oxford)
2pm-3.30pm ‘Empires in Motion’Professor Pekka Hämäläinen (St Catherine’s, Oxford)Nomadic empires, imperial formations built by expansionist equestrian societies, flourished across the world from the fourth century BC into the late nineteenth century AD.  Yet nomadic empires are often seen as secondary historical phenomena: parasitical, volatile, organizationally shallow quasi-empires that failed to achieve the self-sufficiency of sedentary empires.  A broader history of nomads requires a broader understanding of empires. Nomadic empires might be best understood as kinetic empires, shape-shifting power regimes that revolved around sets of mobile activities—long-distance raiding, seasonal expansions, transnational diplomatic missions, semi-permanent trade fairs, recurring political assemblies and control over shifting economic nodes.  From the Xiongnu to the Mongols and the Comanches, nomads turned mobility into an imperial strategy.  They relied on non-sedentary forms of power and ruled by keeping things—violence, markets, attachments, possessions, themselves—fluid and in motion.Discussant: Professor Samuel Truett (University of New Mexico)
4pm-5.30pm ‘A Genoese Miracle?’ Professor James Belich (Balliol, Oxford)For 600 years from the 11thcentury, the Italian city of Genoa was a great power in the Mediterranean world. The Genoese ‘empire’ was a dynamically fluid, shifting entity, changing shape as well as space over time. It was variously a mercantile diaspora, a credit network, a mercenary network, a corsair state, a colonial empire, a plantation producer of cotton and sugar, and a puppet-master operating through other empires, including the Byzantine, Portuguese and Spanish. Genoa’s power and wealth was achieved and maintained despite a tiny population (city and hinterland in 1500 had one-tenth the population of the Venetian equivalent), endemic factionalism, and chronic governmental instability.  How did this come about, and what can we learn from it regarding extra-European expansion after 1500?Discussant: Professor Chris Wickham (All Souls, Oxford)