In the last several decades, the history of empires has developed into a booming field. Three central questions motivate the study of imperial history: How did ideologies and practices of imperialism develop over time? How did imperial societies function, and what kinds of political, cultural, and economic formations did they produce? Finally, how and why do empires collapse, and what are the consequences of their demise? At the same time, imperial history is defined by its eclecticism, and it lends itself to a diverse array of methodologies and approaches. Historians of empire have examined how imperial structures have facilitated the circulation of goods, commodities, and ideas; how empires have helped to define identities and cultural practices; and how different imperial systems interacted with one another. Imperial historians also work on a variety of geographic settings and temporal periods, and on a number of different historical scales, from the super local to the global.
A strong cohort of faculty at the University of Chicago works on questions related to empire. Our geographic interests range from the Atlantic world to Africa and Eurasia, and we work on premodern and modern empires. We offer a range of undergraduate and graduate courses, from introductory lectures to graduate research seminars. Political economy, science, environmental history, migration and mobility, material culture, and the formation of racial, gender, and political identities in imperial settings are particular areas of strength.