How the East was Won: Mimetic Imperialism, the Rise of the West and the Asian Roots of the Modern World 

This paper re-evaluates the 'rise of the West' by considering the British Raj alongside two of its most important Asian predecessors and counterparts - Mughal India and Qing China. Historical sociologists have long sought the origins of the West's global ascendancy in attributes supposedly unique to the post Reformation West, be it military-technological supremacy, or variants of institutional or ideological exceptionalism. By contrast, this paper seeks to enhance our understanding of the Western supremacy by stressing the powerful similarities it bore with Asian empire-building projects from the late sixteenth century onwards. Far from being exceptional, Western imperialists faced the same challenges that the Mughals and the Manchus had earlier confronted in conquering and ruling culturally diverse indigenous populations that vastly outnumbered them. The strategies Westerners employed - to build multi-ethnic conquest coalitions, to bind them to the imperial centre, and to pre-emptively break apart potential balancing coalitions - moreover bore profound resemblances to those employed by their Asian counterparts. Western imperialism in Asia succeeded more through imitation of local precedents and practices than through endogenous innovation. Acknowledging this reality is essential, not only to unsettle conventional binaries of 'East' and 'West', but also to provide a better understanding the decisive importance that the 'Asian' imperial model played in making the modern world. 

Andrew Phillips:

About School Research Seminar Series

This series brings together the School’s research community and domestic as well as international leaders in the field of politics and international affairs. Across each semester, the series showcases a diverse and exciting range of topics. We welcome anyone who might be interested in attending.

Please note that most of the research seminars are recorded and are available online.