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General History/Question about Empires


Has the term empire changed over time? How can we note the evolvement of the term empire using specific states? Can I explain this change referring to the Mongol empire, Empire of Great Qing Dynasty, and the Informal British empire or are there any better examples? Is the term "empire" a useful term? Does its evolvement over time and the different interpretations of empire make it a weak term?


  Good questions, Shahad. This might help:

  Basic forms of government:

  Confederal ·Federal ·Hegemony ·Imperial ·Unitary


direct ·representative ·polyarchy ·other


absolute ·constitutional


aristocracy ·military junta ·plutocracy ·stratocracy ·timocracy


autocracy ·despotism ·dictatorship ·totalitarianism


anarchy ·anocracy ·kritarchy ·republic ·theocracy


  The term EMPIRE derives from the Latin imperium (POWER, AUTHORITY). Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples (ethnic groups) united and ruled either by a monarch (emperor, empress) or an oligarchy.

  Aside from the traditional usage, the term empire can be used in an extended sense to denote a large-scale business enterprise (e.g. a transnational corporation), or a political organisation of either national-, regional- or city scale, controlled either by a person (a political boss) or a group authority (political bosses).

  An imperial political structure is established and maintained in two ways: (i) as a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force (direct, physical action to compel the emperor's goals), and (ii) as a coercive, hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power (the perception that the emperor can physically enforce his desired goals). The former provides greater tribute and direct political control, yet limits further expansion because it absorbs military forces to fixed garrisons. The latter provides less tribute and indirect control, but avails military forces for further expansion. Territorial empires (e.g. the Mongol Empire, the Median Empire) tended to be contiguous areas. The term on occasion has been applied to maritime empires or thalassocracies, (e.g. the Athenian and British Empires) with looser structures and more scattered territories.

   Hope this helps, my friend. Take care and stay safe.


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Hank Hokamp


American History in general. History has been a hobby of mine for umpteen years. Colonial History is what I like the best! I seem to have this "savior complex" due to which I seem to be automatically attracted to people who need my help on a daily basis. Since we are the only critters on the planet, how about joining me? Pleasure and satisfaction are your rewards.

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