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Empires and Bureaucracy in World History
From Late Antiquity to the Twentieth Century

Peter Crooks, Timothy H. Parsons, Patricia Ebrey, I. T. Kristó-Nagy, Chris Given-Wilson, Karen Barkey, Michael Whitby, John Haldon, Bernard S. Bachrach, John Gillingham, Len Scales, Christopher Storrs, Jack P. Greene, Michael Broers, Deana Heath, Frederick Cooper, Sam Whimster
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  • Date Published: August 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316617281


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About the Authors
  • How did empires rule different peoples across vast expanses of space and time? And how did small numbers of imperial bureaucrats govern large numbers of subordinated peoples? Empires and Bureaucracy in World History seeks answers to these fundamental problems in imperial studies by exploring the power and limits of bureaucracy. The book is pioneering in bringing together historians of antiquity and the Middle Ages with scholars of post-medieval European empires, while a genuinely world-historical perspective is provided by chapters on China, the Incas and the Ottomans. The editors identify a paradox in how bureaucracy operated on the scale of empires and so help explain why some empires endured for centuries while, in the contemporary world, empires fail almost before they begin. By adopting a cross-chronological and world-historical approach, the book challenges the abiding association of bureaucratic rationality with 'modernity' and the so-called 'Rise of the West'.

    • Proposes a new view of historical empires as a form of power, explaining how real empires actually ran and challenging popular conceptions that empires were supremely powerful
    • Explains why some empires endured for centuries while, in the contemporary world, empires seem set to fail almost before they begin
    • Adopts a cross-chronological and world-historical approach
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Crooks and Parsons have taken an unfashionable subject and crafted a sparkling set of essays that demonstrate the importance of bureaucracy to the founding and maintaining of a diverse array of empires. Speaking across a huge temporal divide, this collection is sensitive to newer histories of colonialism, takes nothing for granted, and rethinks comparative history in important and productive ways. An impressive contribution that belongs on the shelves of historians of empire from every era and every region.' Philippa Levine, University of Texas, Austin

    'This book studies the links between the hugely important but complicated realities of empire and bureaucracy in a way that is extremely wide-ranging, of great conceptual clarity but also full of detailed knowledge. Given the enormous scale of the project and the different perspectives of the many specialists involved in writing the individual chapters, the coherence of this fascinating work is a great tribute to the two editors. Dominic Lieven, University of Cambridge

    'A distinguished array of the most important and innovative historians in their respective fields has been brought together here. The resulting debates and discoveries are wide-ranging, penetrating, often genuinely groundbreaking.' Stephen Howe, University of Bristol

    'In this rich collection of essays edited by Peter Crooks and Timothy H. Parsons, historians working on diverse regions and eras examine the relationship between the establishment and running of empires and bureaucracy.' Prachi Deshpande, H-Asia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316617281
    • length: 496 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.78kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 17 maps 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction:
    1. Empires, bureaucracy and the paradox of power Peter Crooks and Timothy H. Parsons
    Part II. Empires and Bureaucracy in World-Historical Perspective:
    2. China as a contrasting case: bureaucracy and empire in Song China Patricia Ebrey
    3. Conflict and cooperation between Arab rulers and Persian administrators in the formative period of Islamdom, c.600–950 CE I. T. Kristó-Nagy
    4. Bureaucracy without alphabetic writing: governing the Inca empire, c.1438–1532 Chris Given-Wilson
    5. The Ottoman empire (1299–1923): the bureaucratization of patrimonial authority Karen Barkey
    Part III. From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages:
    6. 'The late Roman empire was before all things a bureaucratic state.' Michael Whitby
    7. Bureaucracies, elites and clans: the case of Byzantium, c.600–1100 John Haldon
    8. Charlemagne and Carolingian military administration Bernard S. Bachrach
    9. Bureaucracy, the English state and the crisis of the Angevin empire, 1199–1205 John Gillingham
    10. The parchment imperialists: texts, scribes, and the medieval western Empire, c.1250–c.1440 Len Scales
    11. Before Humpty Dumpty: the first English empire and the brittleness of bureaucracy, 1259–1453 Peter Crooks
    Part IV. From the Age of European Expansion to the End of Empires:
    12. Magistrates to administrators, composite monarchy to fiscal-military empire: empire and bureaucracy in the Spanish monarchy, c.1492–1825 Christopher Storrs
    13. Britain's overseas empire before 1780: overwhelmingly successful and bureaucratically challenged Jack P. Greene
    14. 'Les enfants du siècle': an empire of young professionals and the creation of bureaucratic, imperial ethos in Napoleonic Europe Michael Broers
    15. Bureaucracy, power and violence in colonial India: the role of Indian subalterns Deana Heath
    16. From chief to technocrat: labour and colonial authority in post-World War II Africa Frederick Cooper
    17. The unintended consequences of bureaucratic 'modernization' in post-World War II British Africa Timothy H. Parsons
    Part V. Afterword:
    18. Empires and bureaucracy: means of appropriation and media of communication Sam Whimster.

  • Editors

    Peter Crooks, Trinity College, Dublin
    Peter Crooks is Lecturer in Medieval History at Trinity College, Dublin. His primary research interest is in Ireland in the period 1171–1541 and, arising from that, in the wider 'English world' or 'Plantagenet empire' of which Ireland formed an important part. He is editor of Government, War and Society in Medieval Ireland (2008) and, with David Green and W. Mark Ormrod, The Plantagenet Empire, 1259–1453. He is also principal editor of 'Circle' (, a reconstruction of the Irish chancery rolls destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Public Record Office, Dublin. His articles have appeared in Past and Present and the English Historical Review.

    Timothy H. Parsons, Washington University, St Louis
    Timothy H. Parsons holds a joint appointment as a Professor of African History in the history department and the African and African–American Studies Program at Washington University, St Louis. His publications include The Second British Empire: In the Crucible of the Twentieth Century (2014), The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall (2010), Race, Resistance and the Boy Scout Movement in British Colonial Africa (2004), The 1964 Army Mutinies and the Making of Modern East Africa (2003) and The African Rank-and-File: Social Implications of Colonial Service in the King's African Rifles, 1902–1964 (1999).


    Peter Crooks, Timothy H. Parsons, Patricia Ebrey, I. T. Kristó-Nagy, Chris Given-Wilson, Karen Barkey, Michael Whitby, John Haldon, Bernard S. Bachrach, John Gillingham, Len Scales, Christopher Storrs, Jack P. Greene, Michael Broers, Deana Heath, Frederick Cooper, Sam Whimster

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