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Empire unbound

27 July 2022

New look at empire building in North Africa balances impact of transnational networks and cooperation with Muslim elites

The latest book from history staff explores new imperialism community building in the late 19th century at Empire Unbound France and the Muslim Mediterranean, 1880-1918.

European empires were commonly depicted in colour-coded maps printed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that conveyed the expanse of european power across the globe. Despite this familiar image of a world divided up into neat imperial enclaves, the reality of empire-building often told a different story.

Here historian Dr Gavin Murray-Miller argues that european empires were never the bounded, stable entities that imperialists imagined.

In examining mediterranean empire-building in a comparative context, he demonstrates that the era of 'new imperialism' which arose in the late nineteenth century fostered connections and synergies between regional powers that influenced the trajectories of imperial states in fundamental ways.

Breaking with conventional national approaches, he traces the development of France's North African empire, noting how empire-building relied upon transnational networks and cooperation with Muslim elites across borders just as much as military conquest.

By looking at the inter-connected relationships linking the French, British, Italian, and Ottoman empires from the 1880s to the First World War, Empire Unbound proposes a novel spatial framework for imperial studies, showing how migrations, extraterritorial legal regimes, and cross-border interactions both abetted and frustrated imperial designs at the turn of the century.

Published by Oxford University Press, Empire Unbound France and the Muslim Mediterranean, 1880-1918 is the third title from the Cardiff historian. It follows Revolutionary Europe: Politics, Community and Culture in Transnational Context, 1775-1922 (Bloomsbury, 2020) and The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity (University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

Dr Gavin Murray-Miller is senior lecturer in modern european history, particularly interest in modern France, nationalism and citizenship studies, the age of revolution, radical political movements, and european Islam and multiculturalism.

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