Date: 7 November 2014 Time: 12.10 pm
Venue: Murphy Lecture Theatre 101 (MY101), Victoria University of Wellington
The History Programme is pleased to host Professor Antony Hopkins,
who will speak on his forthcoming study American Empire: An Alternative
American Empire: An Alternative History seeks to rethink
the United States and empire in an international setting, using the UK
as the prime comparator. Conventional wisdom suggests that ‘empire’
applies to the United States before 1783 and after 1945.
Professor Hopkins suggests, instead, that the decades between require reconsideration.
in 1783 the USA achieved formal independence, what followed was a long
struggle to secure real sovereignty, during which the US remained
heavily dependent on the UK. The conventional narrative of the
pioneering nation and its progress towards liberty and democracy can be
seen instead as an increasingly fraught search for development and
viability. In this understanding, the US is the first major
decolonised state and, as such, the forerunner of many others that were
to follow. The experiment in nation-building failed in 1861, and the
new endeavour after 1865 sought to shape a new union. The effort
succeeded: 1898 was an expression and celebration of unity achieved that
also won the US recognition as a world power.
delivered an overseas territorial empire, the history of that empire
has been almost totally neglected. Reconstructing the history of the
'real' US Empire provides a test of US exceptionalism, enables the US
experience to be compared to that of the other territorial empires, and
presents unused precedents for present-day commentators to refer to
when they advise policy-makers about the 'lessons of history.' This
empire ended in the 1950s, when the European empires also came to an
end. What followed was not an American 'empire' but an attempt to create
US hegemony in greatly changed circumstances. The attempt was of
relatively short duration and of limited success.
Professor A. G.
Hopkins is a world-renowned economic historian of the British Empire and
Africa, as well as a pioneer in the history of globalisation and global
history. He is Emeritus Professor at Pembroke College Cambridge, and
was previously the Walter Prescott Webb Professor of History and Ideas
at the University of Texas in Austin and the Smuts Professor of
Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge. Perhaps the
best-known of his works is British Imperialism 1688-2000 (with P.J.
Cain). He has also published extensively on globalization and world