The first lecture in the series looks at the initial expansion of Europe, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. It explores the great empires established by the British, Dutch, French, Ottomans, Portuguese, Russians and Spanish, and looks at their origins, their growth, and their mutual rivalries. It examines how these empires were ruled, the role of slavery in their establishment and administration, and their impact on the peoples they colonized. To a degree these were 'mercantilist empires', extending European patterns of control to overseas territories and confining them to a particular, limited role as recipients of European manufactures and providers of raw materials on which to base it. Trade restrictions imposed by the colonizing powers were increasingly resented by emerging colonial elites. Most of the pre-industrial European empires collapsed with startling suddenness in the half-century from the mid-1770s to the mid-1820s, and the lecture concludes with a discussion of why this happened, and what remained afterwards.
This is a part of the lecture series The Rise and Fall of European Empires from the 16th to the 20th Century.