Monday, April 5, 2021

Imperial Man

Annamaria on Monday

The slave-driving Boss-Lady who lives inside me has begun to insist on my beginning to plan my next writing project when I am only two-thirds of the way through a very rough first draft of my current work in progress.  Not able to ignore her, I have been tentatively looking into what Venice was like in the late Seventeenth and early Eighteenth centuries.  The phrase "The Venetian Empire" keeps coming up.  It occurred to me that empires are what I almost always write about.  The Spanish in South America and their aftermath.  The British in Africa. And written and waiting in the wings - the Spanish again, this time in Sicily. What is it with me and empires, I wondered.

I turned to research for an answer.  The answer is: It's not me.  If one is going to write about the history of the planet earth, there is almost no place that has not - at one time or another - been part of an empire.  It has been clear to me from the get-go that a writer of historical crime fiction can find no better setting than when the chosen place was going through some sort of turmoil.

And nothing creates turmoil better than Imperialism. A corollary to this rule is mankind (and I am being gender specific here) glories in such efforts.

Really?  Yes, really.  They have done it wherever they were despite all lack of exchange of ideas across the globe in ancient times.  In fact, men started in on empire building pretty much as soon as they learned how to form a functioning state.

An empire is "an unequal relationship between a core state and a periphery of one or more states controlled from the core." Wherever they were on our poor beleaguered, sacred planet, men have built empires for themselves.

Sometimes they have wanted to expand their own span of control, or to own the resources of their neighbors. Sometimes, they have told themselves and the world at large that their goal was to impose peaceful coexistence on squabbling neighbors. Often they have used their religions or ideologies as an excuse.  But, when it comes right down to examining the results, it sure looks to be all about exploitation of wealth and lust for power and glory.  Wherever and whenever men had the means, they did it.

Whatever the stated or underlying motivation, imperialism is such a common activity that it has its own atlas.

The data to support my conclusion that MANkind is constitutionally (!) predisposed to imperialism can be found in its entirety - all 225 of them - here. And that total does not include the informal ones.

Here are a few examples to show that empires have been everywhere, at every time. 

And here are the BIG ones that have perhaps done the most to shape the Western World as we know it today.

The British "Pink Bits"

Imperial Spain

Of late, the outcomes of colonialism have been uncovered and held up to the light in our unprecedented period of Global Economy, competition, cooperation, and communication.  "Imperial" used to mean "powerful" or even "enviable," at least among imperialists.  Nowadays, in what I hope will someday be called the Second Age of Enlightenment, the word has begun to take on the pejorative connotation that I think it deserves.  One can only hope that our tumultuous period of history comes from the death throes of man's compulsion to conquer anyone weaker than himself.


  1. I see that "an imperial" is a small beard growing from the lower lip - as worn by Napoleon. Your case rests!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you for your vote of confidence, gentleman of the jury!

  2. It makes me wonder about the origin of Mint Imperials...

    1. Mint Imperials versus the dastardly M&M empire. Coming soon to a screen near you.

    2. Well, Zoë, I had to look up Mint Imperials to confirm my suspicions. We have them here in the former colonies, but we just call them mints. In fact, I carry a tin of them with a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsberg on it. They are called Judgemints!

  3. I will skip that flick, thank you very much, Stan. I’d prefer to watch The Mouse That Roared” again.

  4. What immediately comes to mind, Sis, is WOmen.

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