Research seminar History Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, International relations, Political science, Europe

Comparative history of empires: “bureaucracies” in Spain, Portugal, Russia and China


Pablo Blitstein

maître de conférences à l'EHESS (CRH-GEHM)

Jean-Frédéric Schaub

directeur d'études à l'EHESS (CRH, CRH-GEI, MONDA, MONDA-CRBC)

Modern empires, because of their territorial extent (on land and sea) and social and cultural complexity, depended on a wide variety of information flows and lines of command. The seminar uses empirical research into the norms, practices and historical sociology of the officials in these administrations. Three historians specialising respectively in the Iberian empires (16th-18th centuries), Imperial Russia (17th-18th centuries) and China (18th-20th centuries) come together to compare their research experience and initiate an exercise in reasoned comparatism. The aim is to illuminate the differences and similarities between these empires, around a number of key questions: How did the authorities recruit agents for the imperial system? What type of normative culture and professional skills underpinned their activities? How did distance and the variety of social configurations affect the operation of lines of command? What procedures did the central governments use to stay informed about the distant territories under their administration?

Master 1 and Master 2 students will be asked to read the research documents uploaded to the EHESS digital environment. They will be required to present a two-page commentary on the material allocated for each session. A ten-page essay is required for end-of-semester course credit.