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Regular version of the site

190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel, Room 123

Phone:+7 (812)786-92-49 

Postal address: 
190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel

Department Head Adrian A. Selin
Academic Supervisor Evgeniy Anisimov
Remembering the Neoliberal Turn: Economic Change and Collective Memory in Eastern Europe after 1989

Gökarıksel S., Gontarska O., Hilmar T. et al.

L.: Routledge, 2023.

Book chapter
The Stolbovo Treaty and Tracing the Border in Ingria in 1617–1618

Adrian Selin.

In bk.: Sweden, Russia, and the 1617 Peace of Stolbovo. Vol. 14. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2024. P. 99-118.

Working paper
The Image of the Past in Ciro Spontone’s ‘Historia Della Transilvania’

Khvalkov E., Levin F., Кузнецова А. Д.

Working Papers of Humanities. WP. Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2021

Early Modern Empires

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Delivered by:
Department of History
Elective course
1 year, 1, 2 module


Levin, Feliks

Levin, Feliks

Khvalkov, Evgeny

Khvalkov, Evgeny

Course Syllabus


Early modern history is the history of internal and overseas expansion. In early modern time the majority of the states were composite states, including more than one country under the sovereignty of one ruler. Moreover, since the 15th century a number of European powers started their colonial expansion to Africa, Asia and the New World, starting mainly (albeit not exclusively) from the establishment of the networks of littoral trading stations, which eventually evolved in the early modern colonial empire. The course takes the definition of empire as a polity that reaches outwards and that maintains distinction and hierarchy in the process of incorporation of new peoples. It will consider different European imperial scenarios and trajectories between 1400-1700: composite states, overseas empires and land empires, and contextualize ‘early modern empire’ as a distinct form of polity. The course will be focused on the Holy Roman Empire, British composite monarchy, Muscovite Tsardom, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Spanish composite monarchy, Sweden; Portuguese, Castilian, Dutch, French and English colonial empires as well as Gunpowder empires, revolving around key issues such as expansion and struggle for territories; imperial discourse; governance; elite formation; identities; economies; ethnographies and religion.The aim of the course is to examine ‘early modern empires’ from the variety of perspectives and to probe advantages and limitations of the concept of the ‘empire’ as an analytical unit with regard to early modern time.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The course aims to familiarize the students with the historical context of early modern European expansion; governance of early modern empires; the elite formation in early modern empires; identities in early modern empires; imperial economies; imperial ethnographies
  • The course aims to familiarize the students with main lines of historiographical inquiry into early modern empires
  • The course aims to familiarize the students with primary sources connected with the history of early modern empires
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • The student can comprehend primary sources effectively
  • The student can identify main thesis and issues raised in scholarly literature
  • The student is able to review scholarly literature in English
  • Students can comprehend primary sources effectively
  • The student can discuss scholarly issues in groups and present the results of these discussions; can solve scholarly issues in collaboration with groupmates.
  • The student can write an essay concerned with one of the issues of the early modern empires
  • The student consistently uses the terminology of the scholarship of the early modern empires
  • The student knows main facts of the history of early modern empires
  • The student knows main facts of the history of the early modern empires
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Early modern theories of empire
  • Notions of empire in early modern sources
  • How to study early modern empires?
  • Brokers of Empire
  • The age of discovery
  • Expansion in early modern Muscovy
  • Moral justification of Spanish conquest and its criticism.
  • Imperial expansion and the issues of property
  • Early modern cartography and empires
  • Composite monarchies: Britain
  • Governance of the overseas colonies
  • Composite monarchies of the Baltic sea: Sweden, Polish-Lithunian commonwealth, and Muscovy
  • Resistance to empire-building and colonization
  • Composite monarchies: Holy Roman Empire and Gunpowder empires
  • Elite formation in the early modern empires
  • Subjecthood in early modern composite monarchies and empires
  • British identity and forging territorial identities
  • Imperial economies in early modern time
  • Ethnicity and race in early modern time
  • Early modern ethnographies - primary sources
  • Religion in early modern empires: comparative aspects
  • Remembering early modern empires
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Formative assessment
    Formative assessment consists of a written assignment which includes 1 open question based on the issues discussed in the seminars and lectures, and 1 fragment from the primary source which the student has to comment on.
  • non-blocking Exam essay
    The essay is concerned with one of the topics discussed at class. The length of the essay is 25000 characters with spaces. The topics of the essays are provided by the lecturers 4 days before the date of the exam. The essays are home assignments. Students have 4 days to write their exam essays and submit them via SmartLMS.
  • non-blocking Seminar discussion
    At the seminar students discuss issues raised in scholarly literature and primary sources. Students themselves propose questions for discussion.
  • non-blocking Review
    A review is a critical evaluation of the book chosen by a student dedicated to history of early modern empires (15th-18th centuries). The book for the review has to be chosen by a student and approved by an instructor until October 18, 2022. The approval should be obtained from the lecturer depending on the region your book is dedicated to. The review must be submitted until December, 5
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2022/2023 2nd module
    0.3 * Review + 0.15 * Formative assessment + 0.15 * Seminar discussion + 0.4 * Exam essay


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Alexander Grant, & Keith Stringer. (1995). Uniting the Kingdom? : The Making of British History. Routledge.
  • Armitage, D. (2000). The Ideological Origins of the British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=112408
  • Braddick, M. J. (2000). State Formation in Early Modern England, C.1550–1700. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=77695
  • Cameron, E. (1999). Early Modern Europe : An Oxford History. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=364431
  • Elliott, J. H. (2009). Spain, Europe & the Wider World, 1500-1800. Yale University Press.
  • Evans, R. J. W., & Wilson, P. H. (2012). The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806 : A European Perspective. Brill.
  • Herberstein, S., Major, R. H., & Hakluyt Society. (2010). Notes Upon Russia : Being a Translation of the Earliest Account of That Country, Entitled Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii: Vol. Vol. II. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
  • Hodgen, M. T. (1971). Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Vol. 1st pbk. ed). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=17294
  • Immanuel Wallerstein. (2011). The Modern World-System I : Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. University of California Press.
  • Kappeler, A. (2014). The Russian Empire : A Multi-ethnic History. Hoboken: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=837915
  • Kidd, C. (1999). British Identities Before Nationalism : Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, 1600–1800. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=54555
  • Muthu, S. (2012). Empire and Modern Political Thought. Cambridge University Press.
  • Van Ruymbeke, B., & Roper, L. H. (2007). Constructing Early Modern Empires : Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750. Brill.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Behn, A., Southerne, T., Hughes, D., & Neville, H. (2007). Versions of Blackness : Key Texts on Slavery From the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge University Press.
  • Bushkovitch, P. (2012). A Concise History of Russia. New York: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=432731
  • David Arnold. (2002). The Age of Discovery, 1400-1600: Vol. Second edition. Routledge.
  • Elliott, J. H. (1992). A Europe of Composite Monarchies. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.A96675F4
  • Franklin, S., & Bowers, K. (2017). Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1854. Open Book Publishers.
  • Herberstein, S., & Major, R. H. (2010). Notes Upon Russia: Being a Translation of the Earliest Account of That Country, Entitled Rerum Muscoviticarum Commentarii, by the Baron Sigismund Von Herberstein : Ambassador From the Court of Germany to the Grand Psrince Vasiley Ivanovich, in the Years 1517 and 1526: Vol. Vol. I. Hakluyt Society.
  • Hsia, R. P. (2017). A Companion to Early Modern Catholic Global Missions. Brill.
  • Kivelson, V. (2002). Muscovite “Citizenship”: Rights without Freedom*. Journal of Modern History, 74(3), 465. https://doi.org/10.1086/345109
  • MAARTEN PRAK. (2001). Early Modern Capitalism : Economic and Social Change in Europe 1400-1800. Routledge.
  • S. J. Connolly. (2007). Contested Island : Ireland 1460-1630. OUP Oxford.