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History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe Essay

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Updated: Mar 23rd, 2020

“Empire: A Very Short Introduction” written by Stephen Howe and published in 2002 is historical writing offering a fresh perspective on the world’s history and its most well-known events and wars. Howe begins his book by stating that our world’s history can be viewed as imperial or colonial history on each period of the existence of mankind.

This perspective is new because typically only certain actions and periods in the histories of separate countries care referred to as colonial times. In the very beginning of his book, the author emphasizes that the influences and connections between the empires and the territories they colonized and owned in the past keep lasting decades and even centuries the empires fall apart.

Another interesting insight offered by Howe in his book is a new understanding of the term “empire”. Howe writes that the habitual notion of an empire has shifted over time and today empires still exist, yet they have slightly different forms.

In his book Howe emphasizes that ever since ancient times the states have been trying to expand, strengthen their influences and reputation in the region, force their cultures on the weaker neighbors, gain allies and unite. Territorial wars have been happening thousands years ago just like they happen today.

These aspects of human behavior never changed even though the world and our society, in general, have evolved quite a lot. Looking at the events going on in the world these days makes it obvious that the struggle for influence is a significant part of international relations in the world of nowadays. For example, the world’s attention today I focused on the conflict that burst out in the east of Ukraine.

The viewers are generally divided into two main groups – the supporters of the opinion that the conflict is perpetuated by Russian Federation and its imperialistic desire to annex some of the neighboring states, and the individuals that believe that Russian involvement in this conflict is nothing but an opposition to the imperialistic expansion of NATO to the east of Europe enforced through the attempt to swallow smaller countries.

Both perspectives view the opposition as an ultimate dominator driven by imperialistic moods and ideas. Closer examination of each of the armed conflicts that happened within the last couple of decades will reveal the same points of view.

Another argument suggested by Howe in his book is that contemporary imperialism is disguised under a different name. Today, we call it “globalization”. Truly, the application of critical thinking towards the mechanism and consequences of globalization reveals some of its typical features.

They are the shift of power balance in favor of bigger and more influential countries, the movement of resources and people towards the main concentrations of power and capitals, and overall assimilation of cultures and nations forcing the traits of more popular ones on the weaker ones. A critical view on globalization reveals strong Americanization of the contemporary world’s society. First of all, English is an international language.

Secondly, the internet is mainly based on the use of English. Besides, the expansion of American fast food industries significantly shifts the diets of the world’s population. Moreover, American cinema and popular culture dominate the majority of other cultural influences so strongly, that some countries even started to oppose this influence and ban alien traditions infiltrating their lifestyles and customs.

Howe uses the cases of several different colonial relationships between former empires and their parts as examples, among them Europe and the Middle East, England and Scotland, Britain and New Zealand. It is also important to mention that richer areas attract more people as these are the territories with better job and development opportunities.

This shifts the population balance and creates a gap between urban and rural areas making richer places even more influential. Besides, high rates of migration create cultural clashes and mixes, when the representatives of different nations move to new areas. Some cultures swallow the others and assimilation erases ancient traditions.

The language Howe uses in his book is rather simple but scholarly. This makes his writing accessible and attractive for a wide range of readers among whom there might be students, teachers, historians, journalists, or just individuals taking an interest in the issues explored by the author.

To make his writing appeal to a variety of readers, Howe employs a simpler key so that the book does not sound like a lecture. Instead, the author establishes a closer and more casual relationship with the audience, and the reading process starts to feel more like a conversation.

Overall, the points made by Howe are very valuable and fresh. His ideas are applicable to the events of 2002, when the book was released, and to the contemporary issues happening right now. Howe’s idea to view globalization and other contemporary phenomena as the modern forms of imperial tendencies is interesting, popular and valid.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 23). History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-in-empire-a-very-short-introduction-by-stephen-howe/

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"History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe." IvyPanda, 23 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/history-in-empire-a-very-short-introduction-by-stephen-howe/.

1. IvyPanda. "History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe." March 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-in-empire-a-very-short-introduction-by-stephen-howe/.


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IvyPanda. "History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe." March 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-in-empire-a-very-short-introduction-by-stephen-howe/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe." March 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-in-empire-a-very-short-introduction-by-stephen-howe/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'History in “Empire: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Howe'. 23 March.

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