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070295 SE Seminar - Drugs and Empires (2021S)

8.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 7 - Geschichte
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first serve).


max. 25 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N


All dates are digital with the exception of the last session on 9 June 2021. If covid regulations allow, we will meet non-digitally (!), i.e. in person for this last session of the semester. However, if you're abroad or cannot attend this last session for other reasons, let me know in advance.

Wednesday 17.03. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 24.03. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 14.04. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 21.04. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 28.04. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 05.05. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 12.05. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 19.05. 13:00 - 15:30 Digital
Wednesday 09.06. 13:15 - 15:45 Hörsaal 5 Tiefparterre Hauptgebäude Stiege 9 Hof 5


Aims, contents and method of the course

Throughout human history drugs have played a major role in the political economy and culture of empires. Their production, trade and consumption have been important constituents of the relations between centres and peripheries within empires and a major source of the extraction and accumulation of value. The seminar intends to investigate this relationship between the production, distribution and consumption of drugs and the constitution of empires on a global scale in a wide historical perspective spanning from antiquity to the present.

In this seminar, we define drugs as naturally occurring substances that have been consumed by almost every society in history for their mind- or mood-altering properties. This broad definition thus not only includes narcotics like opium, cocaine or heroin, but all kinds of alcohol as well as tobacco, sugar, tea, cacao and coffee. Empires are seen as polities with political and military dominion of populations who are culturally and ethnically distinct from the imperial ethnic group and its culture. They extend relations of hegemony over territorial spaces for the purpose of extracting and centralizing value. This definition includes formal as well as informal empires.

After several sessions of intense reading and input, students are required to deliver a research proposal by 12 May 2021. In our last two sessions (19 May and 9 June 2021) students present the drafts of their seminar papers (at least 50% of the final paper). The final papers are due on 30 September 2021.

Possible research topics include (among others):

- Greek colonization of the Mediterranean area and the diffusion of viticulture
- Wine and the Roman Empire
- Beer and the merchant empire of the Hansa
- Coffee and Islamic Empires
- Sugar and the Atlantic plantation complex
- Tobacco and the Atlantic plantation complex
- Brandy and the Castilian Empire
- Vodka and the Russian Empire
- Tea and the British Empire
- Opium and the British Empire
- Cacao and the colonization of Africa
- Cocaine and US imperialism in Latin America
- Heroin in Afghanistan, the Golden Triangle and War in Southeast Asia
- War on Drugs and the informal US empire

Assessment and permitted materials


1) Active participation (10%)
2) Oral Presentation (10%)
3) Regular written assignments (15%)
4) Presentation of a draft of the seminar paper (15%)
5) Final Seminar paper, 15 pages (50%)

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

- you can miss max. 2 classes
- you have to hand in the assignments and the final seminar paper
- you have to present the draft of your seminar paper

Examination topics

Reading list

David Courtwright, Forces of Habit. Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Harvard University Press (2001).

Paul Gootenberg (ed.), Cocaine. Global Histories. Routledge (1999).

Stephen Howe, Empire. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press (2002).

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power. The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books (1985).

Carl Trocki, Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy. Routledge (1999).

Immanuel Wallerstein and Terence K. Hopkins, ‘Commodity Chains in the World-Economy Prior to 1800’, in: Immanuel Wallerstein, The Essential Wallerstein. The New Press (2000).

Association in the course directory

MA Geschichte: Globalgeschichte
MA Globalgeschichte (8 ECTS)
MEd-LA GSP: UF MA GSP 01 Fachwissenschaft (6 ECTS)

Last modified: We 21.04.2021 11:26