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Prof. Dr. Richard Drayton


Richard Drayton, Professor of Imperial and Global History at King's College London, is a visiting scholar with the Berlin Global History Group for 2021-2022. An International Fellowship of the Leverhulme Trust relieved him from teaching in London for this academic year, and in 2021 he was also awarded a Humboldt Forschungspreis.

In Berlin he will be pursuing his project "Europe’s Hinterlands and its ‘Blue Water’ Empires”. European expansion, he argues, should be studied as a connected Pan-European enterprise. The Iberian powers, the Dutch, British and French were, of course, the key imperial powers in competition in the Americas, Africa and Asia. But every part of Europe, East as well as West, the centre of the continent as well as its littoral, participated in this European enterprise, and was changed by it. Imperial competition depended, paradoxically, on forms of trans-european collaboration, and in particular on transnational capitalist exchange. We may usefully connect copper miners in the Tyrol and Hungary, linen weavers in Poland, Lithuanian hemp and pitch, sugar refiners in Köln or Nürnberg, merchants and bankers in Antwerp, Hamburg, Bordeaux and London, with the Atlantic Slave Trade, the West Indian sugar plantations, and the textile trades of Asia. We might see the ascendancy of the British Empire c. 1750-1850 to have depended on the density of its economic connections with continental Europe, from which it attracted key inputs -- capital, skills and strategic commodities -- and on which it depended for markets.

Reaching the People