MO4970 Revolutions and Empires, 1776-1848
Lecturer Dr Jordan Girardin (St Katharine's Lodge)
Credits 60  
Availability Semester 1 and 2, 2017-18
Class Hour view timetable


In 1700 Europe was a patchwork of different kinds of states: mixed and absolute monarchies, independent republics, republican confederations, free cities, bishoprics, imperial confederations, centralised empires, trading empires, and composite and confessional empires. During the eighteenth century the traditional survival strategies of the smaller states began to fail. There was a growing gulf in power between small and large states, in part because of the consequences of commercial society and military technology. The dark side of the enlightenment is the story of the decline and disappearance of so many of these small states. The revolutions that began in 1776, with the revolt of some of Britain’s colonies in North America, and which was followed Geneva and the Dutch states before the beginning of the French Revolution, can all be seen as rebellions against empire. This course examines these revolutions and their consequences for the empires that they sought to limit or dismantle. The French Revolution, from being a cosmopolitan revolution to put an end to empire, turned into an attempt to create a global republican empire, and the course looks at the consequences of the Revolution for the ideals that sustained it. It goes on to examine the relationship between states after the Napoleonic Wars, and the consequences of the new forces of industrialism, socialism, utilitarianism, liberalism and democracy. The role Britain played was highly significant in the independence struggles from South America to Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century, and in consequence the course charts the end of old traditions of politics, and the transition to a new world of (mainly) large and competitive imperial commercial states. Students will read the works of a variety of observers and commentators who considered changing the world and adapting it to cope with the existence of global empires. The published works of major (Hume, Smith, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adams, Constant) and minor (Mallet du Pan, Brissot, Benjamin Vaughan, Chalmers, Mackintosh, Sismondi) figures will be scrutinised.

Basic Reading  

Course Structure


    1. Nations and nationalism
    2. Decline and fall
    3. Rebellion and revolution
    4. Maintaining republics
    5. Reforming monarchies
    6. American republics
    7. American Federalism
    8. American Anti-Federalism
    9. Small states: Geneva, the Dutch and the Swiss
    10. The French Revolution and empire
    11. The British and revolution


    1. Democracy and empire
    2. Liberalism and commerce
    3. Utilitarianism and world government
    4. Socialism and equality
    5. Christian empire and colonial peoples
    6. The post-Napoleonic world
    7. South American republics
    8. American lessons for Europe
    9. Independence struggles
    10. An end to old Europe
    11. Nationalism and empire


60% examination - two 3-hour papers

3 hours (x2 exams: one essay exam & one gobbet commentary exam)

40% coursework






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