Empires have been common over several millennia and part of the lived experience of people around the globe. Understanding their history is more important than ever as societies grapple with imperial legacies, ongoing imperialisms and decolonizing processes. These different empires had their own temporalities, modalities, dynamics and contexts, but comparative study facilitates understanding and can open up new fruitful lines of enquiry.
King’s College London has long been a centre for the study of empires. Classical Greek and Roman history has been taught at King’s ever since the College opened in 1831. In the twentieth century its staff played a seminal part in the development of British imperial history after the College became only the second place in the world to have a chair in the subject with the foundation of the Rhodes Professorship of Imperial History (now the Professorship of Imperial and Global History). Unusually among British universities, the College has long established expertise in Portuguese and Brazilian studies. In 1947 Charles Ralph Boxer (1904-2000) a historian of Dutch and Portuguese colonialism was appointed Camões Chair of Portuguese, a chair founded and part funded by Portuguese institutions, and at the time the only chair of its kind in the English-speaking world. In 1997 a new chair named the Charles Boxer Chair dedicated to the history of the Portuguese speaking world was created in his honour.
Today’s generation of King’s historians begin from very different perspectives to their early twentieth-century forbears, who were invested in empire and in various ways participants in Britain’s imperial project. But while our approach may be very different, the College maintains exceptional expertise in the study of empires, ancient and modern. Our interests extend from the ancient Roman empire via the early modern European empires to modern European overseas and continental empires. We have concentrations of expertise in the history of decolonization. The College has large numbers of PhD students working on the history of empires, and regularly hosts visiting scholars from other institutions also engaged in forms of colonial and imperial history. In coming together in this research hub, we aim to facilitate exchanges across empires and periods through regular lunchtime meetings. At the same time, the hub will be hosting more focused, period-specific workshops and reading groups. Our aim is to serve both the King’s community and the wider national and international one, by initiating conversations around the history of empires as well as through resources available via our website.