Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper’s Empires in World History (2011) is a textbook-ish monograph which traces the impact of empires in world history (From ancient Rome and China to the Eurozone). It looks at how empires employ a variety of political and social mechanisms (Burbank and Cooper use the term “imperial repertoires“) to maintain social difference and power within a controlled elite.
Burbank and Cooper was assigned in an undergraduate course in 2012, but only after it was mentioned off-hand in a seminar in spring 2015 did I realize its power. Burbank and Cooper’s focus on empires as one way or organizing humans—not as a stage within a, typically national, history—gave me the language I needed to complete a signifiant portion of my MA thesis.
Read this book if: You want to know how empires work(ed); You want to get a good survey of empires in world history; You are a history/cultural studies student interested in colonialism, empire, or nationalism.