Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

From Empires to States

how the idea of territorially bounded sovereignty was able to spread across the globe,


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, empires were still the default form of political association in this world.

At the end of the same century, many of these empires were in the process of being dismantled. While many old gunpowder empires contracted into states as a consequence of military defeat or economic overstretch, maritime trading empires imploded as a consequence of declarations of independence and pleas for self-determination among peoples subjected to imperial rule.

Although some European states retained control over vast overseas spaces long into the twentieth century, empires had by then already been replaced by the territorial state as the predominant form of polity. But how did this transition from a world of empires to a world of states take place?

The purpose of this project is to contribute new insights into this transition by inquiring into the emergence and diffusion of new conceptions of legitimate authority during the nineteenth century. This is done by studying how the idea of territorially bounded sovereignty was able to spread across the globe, and how it was used to debunk imperial forms of rule while supporting pleas for self-determination in a variety of colonial contexts.


Page Manager:

Researchers on the project


Sovereignty as Symbolic Form, (London & New York: Routledge, 2014).

'From Empire to Sovereignty - and Back?', Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2014, pp. 251-262. 

Department of Political Science
Lund University
Visiting address: Paradisgatan 5H (House: Eden)
Postal address: Box 52, SE-221 00 LUND
Telephone: +46 46-222 89 52

Faculty of Social Sciences