Imperial Borderlands: Professor Bogdan Popescu Presents Book

John Cabot University held a presentation of Professor Bogdan Popescu’s book Imperial Borderlands (Cambridge University Press, 2023) on June 10, 2024. The book focuses on borders as State-making and the institutional legacies of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. The event was organized and co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and International Affairs and the MA in International Affairs

Professor Bogdan Popescu
Professor Bogdan Popescu

In his book, Professor Popescu explores the role of extractive institutions in colonialism, where historical states exploited local populations for their own benefit. While many studies highlight the negative impacts of Western extractivism, and some recent works suggest potential benefits, Professor Popescu argues that these perspectives are incomplete. He asserts that both views fail to recognize the multifaceted nature of extractive institutions, which include imperial investment, changes in local property rights, and coercion. These factors can significantly influence development outcomes. 

Professor Popescu introduces a new conceptual framework to understand the ambivalent effects of extractive institutions, focusing on three key factors: investment, property rights, and violence. According to his research, the most detrimental outcomes for development occur when there is low state investment in infrastructure, significant alteration of local property rights, and high levels of physical coercion. 

Drawing from a wide array of historical and modern data, the book traces the evolution of Habsburg Military Colonialism, established by the central state in the 1500s over vast regions in Central and Eastern Europe. 

JCU Professors Michael Driessen, Giulia Daga, and Ibrahim Al-Marashi, along with other seminar participants, provided valuable feedback and posed insightful questions during the event. 

Bogdan Popescu is Assistant Professor in Political Science at JCU and Visiting Researcher at the University of Oxford. He previously taught at the University of Oxford and was postdoctoral researcher at Bocconi and Princeton. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. His research interests focus on comparative politics and historical political economy using novel data from historical sources.