Religion Meets Empire: Global Perspectives

RELS 205/3.0


Empires in global history are large political and expansionist units (or with a memory of expansion) and maintain distinctions or hierarchy among people even as they incorporate them (Burbank/Cooper). Religion and other belief systems played a crucial role in governing empires, ranging from homogenization to accepting diversity – and even to both approaches or strategies in the same empire. The course approaches religion as a factor for identity formation, a justification for expansion or colonialism, a means of governance, a matter of negotiation or even hybridization, and a foundation for resilience or resistance in global empires. In this perspective, religion will be contextualized culturally and comparatively, ranging from the ancient period to present time developments.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate basic knowledge of long-term global developments and describe the changing role of religion in global history and within changing societies;
  2. Analyze in particularly how religion shaped politics, culture, and societies in empires; 
  3. Critically assess and compare the intersection of empire and religion in general; and 
  4. Explain recent global developments from a historical perspective on religion and empires. 


Winter 2025
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


25% - Bi-weekly Quizzes (x5)
15% - Discussion Forums (3 of 5)
5% - Critical Analysis Paper: Outline
10% - Critical Analysis Paper: Final
20% - Midterm Exam
25% - Non-Proctored Final Exam

*Evaluation subject to change*

Textbook and Materials

There are three required textbooks for this course:

  • Elizabeth Pollard, Clifford Rosenberg, and Robert Tignore, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart. With Sources. Vol. 2 From 1000 CE to the Present. Concise 3rd edition. New York, W. W. Norton: 2021
  • Tim Dowley eds., A Short introduction to world religion. 3rd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 2018
  • Stephen Howe, Empire: A very short introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press: 2002 

Time Commitment

Students in RELS 205 can expect to spend approximately 120 hours completing the course.