New Publication: The Limits of Universal Rule

The field of “comparative imperiology” is both relatively old and very new. It was inaugurated by S.N. Eisenstadt in a pioneering study published almost sixty years ago (1963). Back then, however, empire was considered by many “an ugly word” and the studies of imperial formations were largely discontinued. In the twenty first century, by contrast, this became one of the most burgeoning fields in historical research worldwide, as is demonstrated by several dozen new studies. In a cooperation, researchers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Erfurt, now joined by the University of Munich, are pursuing a project, seed-funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, to offer a more systematic approach to empires. It singles out common problems faced by imperial political structures worldwide and investigates how different empires in various parts of the world and in distinct periods of imperial formation tackled those problems.

The scope of the project is larger than anything that has been attempted before: it is based on a series of topical workshops in which scholars working on different types of empires interact and explore common sets of questions. It covers the five major civilization centers of the Old World (East Asia, Europe, Inner Asia, the Near East, and South Asia), in which imperial formations developed through a certain degree of interaction and cross-pollination. For each of these macro-regions the project distinguishes between the first wave of empire-building (mostly the second half of the first millennium BCE), the second wave (mid-first millennium CE), and the third wave prompted by the formation of the Mongol empire in the thirteenth century.

A first volume has now been published by Cambridge University Press on „The Limits of Universal Rule: Eurasian Empires Compared“, edited by Yuri Pines, Michal Biran (both Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and Jörg Rüpke (Max Weber Center, Erfurt). It is based on a conference held at Erfurt and Eisenach in 2015. A Berlin conference dealing with religion is now prepared for publication, a Munich conference on imperial elites has been postponed into spring 2022 due to the pandemic.

The Limits of Universal Rule: Eurasian Empires Compared, ed. Yuri Pines, Michal Biran (Hebrew University) and Jörg Rüpke, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. xiii, 397 pp. ISBN 978-1-108-48863-1.

For further details, please contact Prof. Jörg Rüpke (

Cite this blog post
urbrel (2021, March 16). New Publication: The Limits of Universal Rule. Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from

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