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Transformation at the margins: Imperial expansion and systemic change in world politics

  • Jeppe Mulich (a1)


Taking the phenomenon of empire as its starting point, this article seeks to provide a framework for addressing the question of how and why international systems change over time. Synthesising elements from network-relational analysis and practice theory, I argue that international systems are best thought of as being composed of multiple partially overlapping and interrelated hierarchical networks. These networks are made up of social ties – as in classic network analysis – but also of specific repertoires of practice. Systemic transformations happen through the reconfiguration of networks, both through shifts in social ties and through changes in their practices. Empire provides a particularly illuminating window into the topic of systemic change, in part because a major driver of historical transformations has been the expansion of empires and their encounters with other heterogeneous polities across the globe, and in part because a focus on imperial interactions highlights the limitations of existing unit-centric perspectives. Drawing on examples from the nineteenth century, I illustrate the usefulness of the framework by showing how different regionally anchored systems came into contact with the expanding spheres of Western empires and how such points of interaction contributed to the development of an increasingly global international system.


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*Correspondence to: Jeppe Mulich, Department of International History, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom. Author’s email:


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1 Tilly, Charles, ‘To explain political processes’, American Journal of Sociology, 100:6 (1995), p. 1596 .

2 Cooper, Frederick, ‘What is the concept of globalization good for? An African historian’s perspective’, African Affairs, 100:399 (2001), p. 206 .

3 There are several problems with the term international system, both in a geographical sense (how far is the reach of the international exactly? How many international systems can coexist at any one time?) and as a matter of chronology (does the international require the existence of nations, and if so when and where do these emerge? Are they universal or historically anchored?). Despite these caveats I use the term international system throughout this article due to its prevalence and explanatory purchase in IR theory as well as its advantage over the alternative term state system, which places the emphasis on units rather than relations. See Buzan, Barry and Little, Richard, International Systems in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 1734 . For my full definition, see below.

4 Jordheim, Helge and Neumann, Iver, ‘Empire, imperialism and conceptual history’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 19:3 (2011), pp. 153156 .

5 See, for example, Snyder, Jack, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991); Butcher, Charles and Griffiths, Ryan, ‘Between Eurocentrism and Babel: a framework for the analysis of states, state systems, and international orders’, International Studies Quarterly, 61 (2017), pp. 328336 .

6 See, for example, Nexon, Daniel and Wright, Thomas, ‘What’s at stake in the American Empire debate?’, American Political Science Review, 101:2 (2007), pp. 253271 ; Nexon, Daniel, The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires and International Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); MacDonald, Paul, Networks of Domination: The Social Foundation for Peripheral Conflict in International Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Andersen, Morten, ‘Semi-cores in imperial relations: the cases of Scotland and Norway’, Review of International Studies, 42:1 (2016), pp. 178203 . Beyond the literature discussed here a third approach to empire, exemplified by the works of a number of postcolonial and decolonial scholars, has focused on the ways in which empire and imperialism have informed the very notion of international relations and its academic study. While this approach has generated exceedingly valuable insights into the constitution, history, and practices of the discipline of IR, what I am interested in here has more to do with the dynamics and the historical development of empires themselves than with the intellectual history and persistent legacy of their advocates and scholars. For examples of this work, see Shilliam, Robbie (ed.), International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and Investigations of Global Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2010); Seth, Sanjay, ‘Postcolonial theory and the critique of International Relations’, Millennium, 40:1 (2011), pp. 167183 ; Hobson, John, The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Tickner, J. Ann, ‘Core, periphery and (neo)imperialist International Relations’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:3 (2013), pp. 627646 ; Vitalis, Robert, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015).

7 This definition follows recent scholarship in history and sociology, including Burbank, Jane and Cooper, Frederick, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), pp. 811 and Calhoun, Craig et al., Lessons of Empire: Imperial Histories and American Power (New York: New Press 2006), p. 3 .

8 Other shared touchstones include Cox, Robert W., ‘Social forces, states and world orders: Beyond International Relations theory’, Millennium, 10:2 (1981), pp. 126155 ; Gerard Ruggie, John, ‘Continuity and transformation in the world polity: Toward a neorealist synthesis’, World Politics, 35:2 (1983), pp. 261285 ; Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power, Volume I: A History of Power from the Beginning to 1760 AD (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). For overviews, see Steinmetz, George (ed.), State/Culture: State-Formation after the Cultural Turn (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); Adams, Julia, Clemens, Elisabeth, and Orloff, Ann (eds), Remaking Modernity: Politics, History, Sociology (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), especially pp. 172 .

9 Tilly, Charles, The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Tilly, Charles, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990–1992 (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992).

10 Tilly, ‘To explain political processes’; Tilly, Charles, ‘Mechanisms in political processes’, Annual Review of Political Science, 4 (2001), pp. 2142 ; Tilly, Charles, Identities, Boundaries, and Social Ties (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2005).

11 See, for example, Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987); Snyder, Myths of Empire; Lefever, Ernest, America’s Imperial Burden: Is the Past Prologue? (Boulder: Westview, 1999).

12 Spruyt, Hendrik, The Sovereign State and its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Buzan and Little, International Systems in World History; Tin-bor Hui, Victoria, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Wohlforth, William et al., ‘Testing balance-of-power theory in world history’, European Journal of International Relations, 13:2 (2007), pp. 155185 ; Kwan, Alan, ‘Hierarchy, status and international society: China and the Steppe nomads’, European Journal of International Relations, 22:2 (2016), pp. 362383 .

13 For a particularly interesting example of the development of such typologies, see Ferguson, Yale and Mansbach, Richard, Polities: Authority, Identity, and Change (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).

14 For the paradigmatic example of this type of analysis, see Anderson, Perry, Lineages of the Absolutist State (London: Verso, 1979).

15 For a number of critiques that turn the Eurocentric view on its head, see Cooper, Frederick and Laura Stoler, Ann (eds), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997); Hobson, John, The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Shilliam (ed.), International Relations and Non-Western Thought.

16 Butcher and Griffiths, ‘Between Eurocentrism and Babel’, p. 334.

17 Ibid.

18 From Buzan and Little, International Systems in World History, p. 80.

19 Phillips, Andrew and Sharman, Jason, ‘Explaining durable diversity in international systems: State, company, and empire in the Indian Ocean’, International Studies Quarterly, 59:3 (2015), pp. 436448 ; Phillips, Andrew, ‘Global IR meets global history: Sovereignty, modernity and the international system’s expansion in the Indian Ocean region’, International Studies Review, 18:1 (2016), pp. 6277 .

20 Phillips and Sharman, ‘Explaining durable diversity’, pp. 439–41.

21 See also Sharman, Jason, ‘Sovereignty at the extremes: Micro-states in world politics’, Political Studies, 65:3 (2017), pp. 559575 .

22 Nexon, The Struggle for Power; Phillips, Andrew, War, Religion and Empire: The Transformation of International Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Nexon, Daniel and Musgrave, Paul, ‘States of empire: Liberal ordering and imperial relations’, in Tim Dunne and Trine Flockhart (eds), Liberal World Orders (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 211230 ; Andersen, ‘Semi-cores in imperial relations’.

23 See, in particular, Tilly, ‘To explain political processes’; Jackson, Patrick and Nexon, Daniel, ‘Relations before states: Substance, process and the study of world politics’, European Journal of International Relations, 5:3 (1999), pp. 291332 ; Goddard, Stacie, ‘Uncommon ground: Indivisible territory and the politics of legitimation’, International Organization, 60:1 (2006), pp. 3568 ; Carpenter, Charli, ‘Setting the advocacy agenda: Theorizing issue emergence and non-emergence in transnational advocacy networks’, International Studies Quarterly, 51:1 (2007), pp. 99120 ; Nexon, Daniel, ‘Relationalism and new systems theory’, in Mathias Albert et al. (eds), New Systems Theories of World Politics (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 99126 ; Jackson, Patrick and Nexon, Daniel, ‘International theory in a post-paradigmatic era: From substantive wagers to scientific ontologies’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:3 (2013), pp. 543565 ; Keene, Edward, ‘International hierarchy and the origins of the practice of intervention’, Review of International Studies, 39:5 (2013), pp. 10771090 ; Adler-Nissen, Rebecca, ‘Stigma management in International Relations: Transgressive identities, norms, and order in international society’, International Organization, 68:1 (2014), pp. 143176 ; Go, Julian and Lawson, George (eds), Global Historical Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

24 Jackson and Nexon, ‘Relations before states’, p. 306.

25 Emirbayer, Mustafa, ‘Manifesto for a relational sociology’, The American Journal of Sociology, 103:2 (1997), p. 281 .

26 On the problems of differentiating between public and private violence in historical IR in particular, see Barkawi, Tarak, ‘State and armed force in international context’, in Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee (eds), Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 5581 and Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee, ‘Private violence in historical context’, in Colás and Bryan Mabee (eds), Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires, pp. 1–13, all arguing against the earlier account by Thomson, Janice (Thomson, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns: State-Building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994)).

27 Go, Julian, ‘For a postcolonial sociology’, Theory and Society, 42:1 (2013), pp. 4143 .

28 Ibid., p. 42.

29 See McCourt, David, ‘Practice theory and relationalism as the new constructivism’, International Studies Quarterly, 60:3 (2016), pp. 475485 .

30 Erikson, Emily, ‘Formalist and relationalist theory in social network analysis’, Sociological Theory, 31:3 (2013), pp. 219242 .

31 For examples of similar moves in Sociology, see Bearman, Peter and Erikson, Emily, ‘Malfeasance and the foundations for global trade: the structure of English trade in the East Indies, 1601–1833’, American Journal of Sociology, 112:1 (2006), pp. 195230 ; McLean, Paul D. and Padgett, John F., ‘Organizational invention and elite transformation: the birth of partnership systems in Renaissance Florence’, American Journal of Sociology, 111:5 (2006), pp. 14631568 .

32 Tilly, Charles, From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1978), p. 151 . See also Tilly, Charles, ‘Contentious repertoires in Great Britain, 1758–1834’, Social Science History, 17:2 (1993), pp. 263270 .

33 Nexon, The Struggle for Power, pp. 24–7; Ward, Kerry, Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 148 ; Benton, Lauren and Mulich, Jeppe, ‘The space between empires: Coastal and insular microregions in the early nineteenth-century world’, in Paul Stock (ed.), The Uses of Space in Early Modern History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 151171 .

34 Gallagher, John and Robinson, Ronald, ‘The imperialism of free trade’, The Economic History Review, 6:1 (1953), pp. 115 . See also Go, Julian, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 133165 .

35 McCourt, ‘Practice theory and relationalism’, pp. 475–85. McCourt also highlights a number of practice-relational approaches, including field theory, discussed in further detail below.

36 Bourdieu, Pierre, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Steinmetz, George, ‘Bourdieu, historicity, and historical sociology’, Cultural Sociology, 5:1 (2011), pp. 4566 ; Gorski, Philip (ed.), Bourdieu and Historical Analysis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

37 See especially Adler, Emanuel and Pouliot, Vincent, ‘International practices: Introduction and framework’, in Adler and Pouliot (eds), International Practices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 335 ; Bueger, Christian and Gadinger, Frank, International Practice Theory: New Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Adler-Nissen, Rebecca and Pouliot, Vincent, ‘Power in practice: Negotiating the international intervention in Libya’, European Journal of International Relations, 20:4 (2014), pp. 889911 .

38 Burbank and Cooper, Empires in World History, pp. 3–6.

39 Ibid., pp. 31–63; Fletcher, Joseph, ‘The Mongols: Ecological and social perspectives’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 46:1 (1986), pp. 1150 ; Allsen, Thomas, Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic lands, 1251–1259 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). It should be pointed out that, while starkly different from East Asian empires, there were important precedents for some of the Mongol practices in earlier steppe empires, including that of the Uighurs. See Biran, Michal, ‘The Mongol transformation: From the Steppe to Eurasian Empire’, Medieval Encounters, 10:1–3 (2004), pp. 341343 ; Neumann, Iver and Wigen, Einar, ‘The importance of the Eurasian Steppe to the study of International Relations’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 16:3 (2013), pp. 311330 .

40 Clendinnen, Inga, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517–1570 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Restall, Matthew, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

41 Go, Patterns of Empire, pp. 240–1.

42 Ibid., pp. 19–27, 166–205.

43 See also Levi Martin, John, ‘What is field theory?’, American Journal of Sociology, 109:1 (2003), pp. 149 .

44 Gould, Eliga, ‘Entangled histories, entangled worlds: the English-speaking Atlantic as a Spanish periphery’, American Historical Review, 112:3 (2007), pp. 764786 ; Koot, Christian, Empire at the Periphery: British Colonists, Anglo-Dutch Trade, and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1621–1713 (New York: NYU Press, 2011); Benton and Mulich, ‘The space between empires’.

45 MacDonald, Networks of Domination, especially pp. 46–77. Some of the territories conquered by the British Empire in MacDonald’s account did have older ties to other imperial polities, but the interaction between and across empires is generally given less consideration in the analysis.

46 See, for example, Keene, Edward, Beyond the Anarchical Society: Grotius, Colonialism and Order in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Anghie, Antony, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Lawson, George and Shilliam, Robbie, ‘Beyond hypocrisy? Debating the “fact” and the “value” of sovereignty in contemporary world politics’, International Politics, 46:6 (2009), pp. 657670 ; Burbank and Cooper, Empires in World History, pp. 15–22; Benton, Lauren, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 139 .

47 Hobson, John and Sharman, Jason, ‘The enduring place of hierarchy in world politics: Tracing the social logics of hierarchy and political change’, European Journal of International Relations, 11:1 (2005), pp. 6398 ; Nexon and Wright, ‘What’s at stake in the American Empire debate?’; Lake, David, Hierarchy in International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009); Cooley, Alexander, Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States, and Military Occupations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012); Bially Mattern, Janice and Zarakol, Ayşe, ‘Hierarchies in world politics’, International Organization, 70:3 (2016), pp. 623654 .

48 Gallagher and Robinson, ‘The imperialism of free trade’.

49 This point falls along the same lines as Michel Foucault’s analysis of power as simultaneously a repressive and a productive force in society. Foucault, Michel, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977 (New York: Random House, 1980), pp. 109133 . See also the related argument made by Tarak Barkawi and Shane Brighton concerning the generative powers of war in Barkawi and Brighton, ‘Powers of war: Fighting, knowledge, and critique’, International Political Sociology, 5:2 (2011), pp. 126–43.

50 On the example of legal and political reform and adaptation prior to colonisation in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, see in particular Engle Merry, Sally, Colonizing Hawai‘i: The Cultural Power of Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Osorio, Jonathan, Dismembering Lahui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887 (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2002); Silva, Noenoe Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). On the rise of the Japanese Empire as a response to the specter of Western colonisation, see Suzuki, Shogo, Civilization and Empire: China and Japan’s Encounter with European International Society (New York: Routledge, 2009), pp. 114139 ; Swale, Alistair, The Meiji Restoration: Monarchism, Mass Communication and Conservative Revolution (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 156 ; Beasley, William, Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 140 . The West African example is discussed in further detail below.

51 Mugambwa, John, ‘A “protected state” in the Uganda protectorate? Re-examination of Buganda’s colonial legal status’, African Journal of International and Comparative Law, 1:3 (1989), pp. 446465 .

52 Galbraith, John, Crown and Charter: The Early Years of the British South Africa Company (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 128153 .

53 See, for example, Hobsbawm, Eric, The Age of Empire, 1875–1914 (London: Abacus, 1987); Geyer, Michael and Bright, Charles, ‘World history in a global age’, The American Historical Review, 100:4 (1995), pp. 10341060; Bayly, C. A., ‘The first age of global imperialism, c. 1760–1830’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 26:2 (1998), pp. 2847 ; Bayly, C. A., The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004); Osterhammel, Jürgen, Die Verwandlungder Welt: Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2009); Ballantine, Tony and Burton, Antoinette, Empires and the Reach of the Global, 1870–1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014); Buzan, Barry and Lawson, George, The Global Transformation: History, Modernity and the Making of International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Phillips, Andrew, ‘The global transformation, multiple early modernities, and international systems change’, International Theory, 8:3 (2016), pp. 481491 .

54 Daaku, Kwame, Trade and Politics on the Gold Coast, 1600–1720: A Study of the African Reaction to European Trade (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 24 ; Vogt, John, Portuguese Rule on the Gold Coast, 1469–1682 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1979), pp. 7172 .

55 See, for example, the fate of the Dutch trading community in Elmina, described in Feinberg, Harvey, Africans and Europeans in West Africa: Elminans and Dutchmen on the Gold Coast during the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1989).

56 Letter from Thomas Melvil to the Committee of the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa, quoted in Shumway, Rebecca, The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2011), p. 1 .

57 Edward Bowdich, Thomas, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee (London: J. Murray, 1819); ‘The Bowdich Treaty with Ashanti, 7 September 1817’, printed in Metcalfe, George (ed.), Great Britain and Ghana: Documents of Ghana History, 1807–1957 (London: The University of Ghana, 1964), pp. 4647 .

58 ‘The Peace Treaty with Ashanti, 27 April 1831’, printed in Metcalfe (ed.), Great Britain and Ghana, pp. 133–4. Not surprisingly, securing European free trade on the coast had a prominent place in this treaty. Conflict between Asante and the British continued at a lower intensity for at least two decades following the signing of the treaty. See Adjaye, Joseph, Diplomacy and Diplomats in Nineteenth-Century Asante (Lanham, MD: University Press of America 1984). Denmark sold off its remaining holdings to Britain in 1850, in part as a consequence of these developments. See The British National Archives (henceforth TNA), Foreign Office (hereafter FO) 94/412, ‘Cession to Great Britain from Denmark of forts etc., on the Gold Coast’, 17 August 1850.

59 Shumway, The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, pp. 88–131.

60 For an analysis of emergent British hegemony in the nearby Niger Delta at the tail end of the century, see MacDonald, Networks of Domination, 149–81.

61 For more on the role of liminal actors in unsettling existing balances-of-power, see Mike Glosny and Daniel Nexon, ‘The Outsider Advantage: Why Liminal Actors rise to System-Wide Domination’, paper presented at the ISA Annual Convention, New Orleans (18–21 February 2015). What is particularly interesting in the case of the Gold Coast is that the initial rising power was a local, African, empire, rather than a European one.

62 Lieberman, Victor, Strange Parallels, Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, Volume II: Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 601602 ; Westad, Odd Arne, Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (London: Bodley Head, 2012), pp. 610 .

63 Perdue, Peter, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

64 See Elliott, Mark, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); Waley-Cohen, Joanna, The Culture of War in China: Empire and the Military under the Qing Dynasty (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006); Larsen, Kirk, Tradition, Treaties, and Trade: Qing Imperialism and Chosǒn Korea, 1850–1910 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

65 Wills, John, Peppers, Guns, and Parleys: The Dutch East India Company and China, 1662–1681 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974); Ross Carpenter, Francis, The Old China Trade: Americans in Canton, 1784–1843 (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1976); Van Dyke, Paul, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005).

66 TNA FO 881/449, ‘China: O. in C. Commerce’, 1843. See also Van Dyke, Paul (ed.), Americans and Macao: Trade, Smuggling, and Diplomacy on the South China Coast (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012).

67 King Fairbank, John, Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast: The Opening of Treaty Ports, 1842–1854 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953).

68 Hann, J. H., ‘Origin and development of the political system in the Shanghai international settlement’, Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 22 (1982), pp. 207229 ; Bergère, Marie-Claire, Histoire de Shanghai (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2002); Yue, Meng, Shanghai and the Edges of Empires (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).

69 Kuhn, Philip, Rebellion and its Enemies in Late Imperial China: Militarization and Social Structure, 1796–1864 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); Reilly, Thomas, The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: Rebellion and Blasphemy of Empire (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004).

70 See, for example, Carroll, John, Edge of Empires: Chinese Elites and British Colonials in Hong Kong (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

71 For an insightful study of the development of Chinese policy towards British India, see Mosca, Matthew, From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013). For more on the clash between incompatible imperial imaginations, see Ringmar, Erik, Liberal Barbarism: The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 69119 .

72 Fairbank, Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast, pp. 439–68; van de Ven, Hans, Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), pp. 122 .

73 Ibid., pp. 172–216. This legibility did not appear out of thin air in the nineteenth century, of course. For earlier Qing engagements with an emerging inter-imperial legal order, consider the treaties between China and Russia dividing up the Central Eurasian Steppe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. See Perdue, China Marches West, pp. 161–72; Mancall, Mark, Russia and China: Their Diplomatic Relations to 1728 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971).

74 TNA, Colonial Office (hereafter CO) 881/8/2, Letter from Consul-General Stuebel to Herbert von Bismarck, 10 June 1884, quoted in ‘Report on the Condition of the Samoan Islands by J. B. Thurston, C. M. G., Acting British Commissioner’, 1887, p. 9.

75 From TNA CO 881/8/2, p. 1.

76 From TNA CO 881/8/2, p. 9. See also the correspondence between London and Wellington in New Zealand Parliamentary Papers, Confederation and Annexation, Papers Relating to the Islands of Samoa and Tonga (London, 1885), pp. 1–5. Indeed, New Zealand would develop into a quasi-imperial power in its own right, governing several Pacific island colonies including, eventually, Western Samoa. See O’Brien, Patricia, ‘From Sudan to Samoa: Imperial legacies and cultures in New Zealand’s rule over the mandated territory of Western Samoa’, in Katie Pickles and Catharine Coleborne (eds), New Zealand’s Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), pp. 127146 .

77 Louis Stevenson, Robert, A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa (London: Cassell & Company, 1892), p. 8 .

78 TNA FO/93/36/30, ‘Germany: Final Act of Conference of Affairs of Samoa’, 14 June 1889.

79 Indeed, the very process of decolonisation included numerous examples of political experimentation diverging from the narrow model of the nation-state. See, for example, the many attempts at transnational federalism in the British Caribbean: Fraser, Cary, Ambivalent Anti-Colonialism: The United States and the Genesis of West Indian Independence, 1940–1964 (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 1994); Chávez, John, Beyond Nations: Evolving Homelands in the North Atlantic World, 1400–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 184212 ; and in French Africa: Cooper, Frederick, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Wilder, Gary, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).

80 Carnegie, Charles, Postnationalism Prefigured: Caribbean Borderlands (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002); Hastings, Justin, No Man’s Land: Globalization, Territory, and Clandestine Groups in Southeast Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010).

81 See, for example, Cooley, Alexander and Nexon, Daniel“The empire will compensate you”: the structural dynamics of the U.S. overseas basing network’, Perspectives on Politics, 11:4 (2013), pp. 10341050 .



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