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States of Empire

Imperial Power from Sargon the Great to Google


Travelling the world to undertake his research, Jonathan Foreman explores how empire lies at the heart of some of the greatest challenges that currently face civilization.

From the grandest of territories conquered and administered over centuries, to the smaller regional conquests that lasted decades, Foreman paints a picture of how urbanised humanity has learned to live – or indeed, endure – and evolve under this system of governance and domination, right up until the present digital age.

In the early modern period ‘empire’ meant ‘sovereignty’ rather than dominion over several different lands or peoples. In the 18th century ‘empire’ was used to suggest size or grandeur. It wasn’t until at least the middle of the 19th century that Britons consistently referred to their possessions and interests abroad as an empire. Mostly when people used the phrase 'British Empire' they were actually referring to the United Kingdom of the British Isles.

In the modern era, ‘empire’ is used mostly to refer to the exercise of power by a state over subordinate territories. But it has also, for centuries, been used metaphorically to describe other forms of great power and domination that transcend borders. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any country which has had an empire that wasn’t itself part of another empire at some earlier time, or of a colonizing power that at some point had been colonized. 

Jonathan Foreman suggests the ‘Era of Empires’ is not over; it just has different names and new forms. It is a global experience that long predates the word itself.

Jonathan Foreman read Modern History at Cambridge University, then Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has been a war correspondent, a film critic and a leader writer, and has reported from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. In recent years Foreman has been based in New York, London, New Delhi and Mumbai. He is often on the radio and television (and is a frequent contributor on Sky News about aid, immigration etc). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Civitas think tank in London.