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The Global Bourgeoisie. The Rise of the Middle Classes in the Age of Empire

International conference at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, 27-29 August 2015


Organised by Dr Christof Dejung, Dr David Motadel, Prof Jürgen Osterhammel

This conference provides a new approach to the emerging research field of global social history by examining the emergence of ‘middle classes’ and ‘bourgeois cultures’ across the globe in the long nineteenth century, as well as their encounters in imperial and non-imperial contexts. It is innovative for the following two reasons: First, it argues that the nineteenth century saw the establishment of social groups all over the world that shared many characteristics with the European bourgeoisie, and could therefore be described as ‘middle classes’. Second, the conference reveals that the making of the middle classes across the globe can only be explained by considering the rising transfer of ideas and goods between the Western and non-Western worlds. Instead of understanding the establishment of middle class society as a distinctly Western phenomenon, which became diffused throughout the rest of the world, the conference papers seek to explore the extent to which it was from its start the result of global interactions and entanglements in the age of empire.

Confirmed speakers include Sven Beckert (Harvard), Kris Manjapra (Tufts), David Parker (Queens), Rebecca Karl (New York), Alison Smith (Toronto) and Richard Drayton (London).

 Conference Programme

The conference will be supported by the Economic History Society, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the German History Society

maharajah and guests

British and Indian guests of a maharajah, dining in a tent; early 20th century (source: