"The Hidden Hand of the Market Will Never Work Without a Hidden Fist": History-Making Between Capital and Empire

Benjamin Gaillard


This paper is intended as a contribution to the larger refiguring of the notion of empire that has been taking place in contemporary historiography. Its principal focus is a theoretical one. It is about the concepts and methods we mobilize when we write modern imperial history. Its argument is fourfold. Firstly, it will call for an anchoring of histories of empire within broader histories of political economy. Secondly, it will argue for a networks-based approach of state as well as non-state actors straddling political, economic, and cultural spheres. Thirdly, following Paul A. Kramer, it will advocate for a historiographical shift from the notion of “empire” to that of “the imperial”. Lastly, it will encourage historians writing on empire to resort to multidisciplinary approaches, mainly anthropology of state and of institutions, as well as historical sociology. What these arguments all seek to convey is that empire should be conceived of not as a thing or a territory, but as a social relation.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/GHSJ.2019.324


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Copyright (c) 2019 Benjamin Gaillard

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/