Spanning the globe from the Americas to South Asia, this interdisciplinary project examines the peripheries of empires. Rather than looking at the history of empires through the lens of European powers (England and Spain), this project takes us to the places that were conquered in order to gain a broader understanding of how empire and colonialism worked, or failed to work, and ultimately what led these “edges of empires” to decolonize and gain independence (India and Mexico) – and, in the case of the American Southwest, become incorporated into another empire: the United States.

This project uses historical photographs from India and Mexico in the 19th and early 20th century to explore the themes of culture, gender, infrastructure, labor and military. Most historians use historical documents to write history. In this project, we use historical photographs as documents to illustrate connections that inform our historical perspective of colonization. By using visual culture in addition to historical texts, we explore common themes of colonial ideologies, class/caste and gender formations, legal and economic systems, emerging regional and national identities, and religious cultures. Our class has done this through a combination of articles and videos. You’ll find that India and Mexico have more in common than just delicious food and mustaches.


This blog is based on a project created by students in KNW 2399: Edges of Empire course at Southern Methodist University in Spring 2015. KNW 2399 is taught by Neil Foley and Rachel Ball-Phillips.


A special thanks to Anne Peterson and Cindy Boeke at the DeGolyer Library, and Brad Boeke for his technical expertise. Without them, this project would not have been possible.

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