Skip to main content

Ideas of Empire: From Persia to Putin

Duration 3 Meetings
Tutor Dr Alun Williams
Course code HIS23A5486A
Fee £249
Concessionary fee £199 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

Online course

Enrol now

What is an empire? How were empires seen? How did ancient empires shape ideas about empire in later centuries, up to the present day?

This course will examine ideas of empire from the Akkadians to the imperial visions of 20th and 21st century autocracies and democracies.

We will explore how Akkad, as the world’s first empire, established imperial practices, precedents, and ideologies which influenced subsequent empires including Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

We will consider how Rome, the most iconic of world empires, exerted a profound influence on future European imperial projects, in direct and indirect ways.

Here, case-studies will explore the Renaissance empires forged in the ‘New World’, and consider how the imperial projects which arose during the World Wars, Cold War and post-Soviet era all owed much to a vision and ideology rooted in the past.

Our main focus will be on ideas and how earlier imperial ideologies and practices influenced successor empires. We will also consider the validity of more direct comparative approaches which reach across often distant periods in order to draw broader historical conclusions.

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught through three linked weekend day-schools incorporating lectures, seminars and workshops.

An intensive block of 15 face-to-face contact hours is framed by three further hours of online delivery, some of which will take place before the first meeting.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and to contribute to the debates and topics.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  • Ancient Empires: From Akkadia to Rome.
  • Medieval and Renaissance Empires: Europe and the ‘New World’.
  • Great Powers and the New World Orders in the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries (Germany, Britain, America and Russia).

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review
  • a 1000-word essay.

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Mazower, M., Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (New York: Penguin, 2008).
  • Pagden, A., Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France, c.1500-1800 (New Haven and London: Yale, 1995).
  • Podany, A., The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.