Where: The Hampton Inn

Cost: $115.00 for 4 session(s)

Type: In Person


Instructor: , University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society is the author of The Rule of Law (1980), Our Lady the Common Law (1987), and Scholars of the Law (1996).

At the end of the nineteenth century the British Empire comprised approximately one third of the world’s population and one fourth of the world’s territory. Add to that the naval supremacy enjoyed by Britain and the imperial governance reached its apex. Pride in empire was the ‘greater nationalism’ of Britain. They were indeed the ‘lords of humankind.’ The imperial impulse has existed from medieval to modern times and the path from empire to commonwealth runs for centuries. What remains is the continuing debate over the value and validity of the Empire itself.

Week 1: The Angevin Empire, 1154 – 1558
From its inception with the accession of Henry II in 1154 to the loss of Calais in 1558, England sought to expand its power in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These efforts, although often desultory, followed a pattern of failure and success for centuries. In Wales only had the English established a permanent sovereignty. In addition, the position of the king of England as also the duke of Normandy enmeshed England in French politics. Henry II was arguably the most powerful monarch in Europe. In 1180 he controlled more territory in France than did the French king. The long struggle to acquire France lay at the heart of the Angevin Empire.

Week 2: The Old Empire, 1558 – 1789
This era laid the foundations of imperial greatness. The British expanded into distant areas of the globe in competition with the Dutch, French and Spanish. The motives for these rivalries were both foreign and domestic. The British defeated the French for dominion in India and began a debate that questioned whether the empire had any long term value.

Week 3: The Empire at its Zenith, 1789 – 1945
British imperial growth occurred all around the world including the scramble for Africa and hegemony in the Middle East. The Empire became a model for other European nations who aspired to gain empires of their own. None, however, could match the size and strength of the British Empire. It is this period that permits an evaluation of the imperial ideology, the intellectual premises upon which the empire rested and the criticisms that opposed them.

Week 4: The End of the Empire, 1945 to the Present
World War II had exhausted the resources of Great Britain. Indian independence in 1947 and the establishment of a sovereign Israel in 1948 heralded the dismantling of the formal empire, though some nations chose to remain in the Commonwealth. Scholars now discuss not so much the British impact on its possessions, but what influence the empire had on British society. The empire has retained a scholarly importance even as its actual size has diminished greatly.

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