| Max-Weber-Kolleg, Religion, Society, and World Relations, Research

New publication: The limits of universal rule

The field of "comparative imperiology", i.e. the comparative study of empires, is both relatively old and very new. It was inaugurated by S.N. Eisenstadt in a pioneering study published almost 60 years ago (1963). In the 21. century, however, it has become one of the fastest growing fields of historical research worldwide. In a collaborative effort, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Free University of Berlin and the University of Erfurt, now joined by the University of Munich, are pursuing a project funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation that provides a systematic look at empires.

It elaborates on problems that imperial political structures have faced around the world: How did empires in different parts of the world and in different periods address these problems?

The project is based on a series of thematic workshops bringing together scholars working on different empires. They cover the five major centres of civilisation in the Old World (East Asia, Europe, Inner Asia, the Middle East and South Asia) where imperial formations developed through interaction and cross-fertilisation. For each of these macro-regions, a distinction is made between the first wave of empire formation (mostly in the second half of the first millennium BC), the second wave (in the middle of the first millennium AD) and the third wave triggered by the formation of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.

A first volume with research results has now been published by Cambridge University Press: The Limits of Universal Rule: Eurasian Empires Compared, edited by Yuri Pines, Michal Biran (Hebrew University) and Jörg Rüpke (Max Weber-Kolleg, University of Erfurt). Based on a conference held in Erfurt and Eisenach in 2015, it examines the factors that facilitated the expansion and contraction of Eurasian empires: from ideology to ecology, from economic and military considerations to the changing composition of imperial elites.

Yuri Pines, Michal Biran und Jörg Rüpke (Ed.)
The Limits of Universal Rule: Eurasian Empires Compared
Cambridge University Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-108-48863-1
397 pages
£ 75.00

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