In-Between Empires: Transit and Sovereignty along the Maritime Routes of Imperial France and Great Britain, 1870-1930

Before coming to the University of Chicago, Charles Fawell studied at Boston University, L'Institut d'études politiques de Paris, and New York University. From 2016-2017, he carried out sixteen months of archival research for the dissertation in France, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam from the support of the Lurcy and Chateaubriand Fellowships. Charles Fawell has lectured in the Writing Program, the Colonizations Sequence in the Social Sciences Core, and most recently, as the Von Holst Prize Lecturer in the History Department.

His dissertation, “In-Between Empires: Transit and Sovereignty along the Maritime Routes of Imperial France and Great Britain, 1870-1930,” is a study of colonial-era steamships belonging to the French Messageries Maritimes Company and the British Peninsular & Oriental Company, in an era when globalizing processes were accelerating at an unprecedented pace. Through micro-histories of steamship voyages, Charles recreates the spatial politics and moral economies of 'floating cities' in which subjects and citizens of colonial empires lived and worked in uneasy cohabitation, during long and frequent voyages, along a vital maritime highway that stretched from the French port of Marseille across the Suez Canal to Yokohama, Japan. Combining research from business, diplomatic, military, and maritime archives in France, Britain, and Vietnam, the project emphasizes the critical roles played by nationally-subsidized merchant shipping and inter-imperial collaboration in the maintenance of colonial empires. In an effort to reexamine the politics of mobility at the apex of European imperial domination, this project argues that steamships were both microcosms of empire and mobile borderlands, the everyday histories of which can help us trace the fault lines of imperial sovereignty and a nascent regime of global governance.