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Abstract

Conventional global histories usually narrate the epochal shift of order that succeeded both World Wars as the passage from colonial subjugation to national independence. New historians of empire and capitalism, however, have complicated these narratives and shown the continuities between both periods. Their work has led them to challenge the former conceptions of empire on which these conventional histories relied. By leaning on their recent insights, this paper intends to contribute to the larger refiguring of the notion of empire that has been taking place in contemporary historiography. Arguing for an anchoring of histories of empire within histories of political economy and for a networks-based approach to state as well as nonstate actors, its main aim is to convey that empire should be conceived of not as a thing or a territory, but as a "social relation." This conceptual turn would allow historians to unravel the various forms of unthinking that conventional notions of empire carry. In turn, this shift in focus would spur important debates concerning the limits of global history. The question would ultimately be: where does the unthought of global history itself lie?

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