3.4 Comparison in Land-Based Empires

9 min readjanuary 3, 2023

Evan Liddle

Evan Liddle

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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This guide includes comparisons in unit 3 and unit 4 respectively in addition to comparisons between unit 3 and unit 4.
Short but sweet: Unit 3 and 4 focus on the growth of empires both across the Atlantic in the Americas and in Afro-Eurasia, so the major comparison would be in the type or style of government. 

 Land Based Empires

Mughal Empire

From the early sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, the Mughal Empire ruled South Asia. It was founded and ruled by a Muslim dynasty of Chaghatai Turco-Mongol origin, which claimed direct descent from both Timur, the Turco-Mongol conqueror, and Genghis Khan, via his son Chaghatai Khan. The Mughal Empire was characterized by a period of economic, cultural, and architectural prosperity, and it is regarded as one of India's greatest empires. The Mughal Empire ruled over much of the Indian subcontinent at its peak, including modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan. The Mughal emperors were known for their cultural accomplishments and support for the arts, and their rule had a profound and long-lasting impact on the development of the arts.

Ottoman Empire

Between the 14th and early 20th centuries, the Ottoman Empire ruled over much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It was founded in the late 13th century by Turkish tribes who converted to Islam in northwestern Anatolia. The Ottoman Empire was at its most powerful in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it ruled over much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It had a centralized, autocratic government and a diverse population that included Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Following the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I and the subsequent occupation of Constantinople (Istanbul) by British and other Allied forces, the empire was eventually dissolved in the early twentieth century.

Safavid Empire

The Safavid Empire was an eastern Islamic state that existed from the early 16th to the mid-18th centuries. It was founded by Ismail I, who declared the Safavid dynasty to be the region's legitimate rulers. The Safavid Empire was centered in modern-day Iran and included parts of Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. The Safavids were Twelver Shia Muslims who made Shia Islam the official religion of the empire. Their contributions to Persian art, literature, and culture, as well as their military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire, are well known. The Safavid Empire declined in the late 18th century and was eventually dissolved in the early 19th century.

Songhai Empire

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Songhai Empire ruled over a large portion of West Africa. It was founded by the Songhai people, a group of people who lived in what is now Niger and Mali. The Songhai Empire was centered in the city of Gao on the Niger River in what is now Mali. The empire was known for its strong military, which allowed it to conquer and expand its territory by conquering a number of neighboring states. It was also known for having an advanced government system that included a well-organized bureaucracy and a highly centralized administration. The Songhai Empire declined in the late 16th century as a result of internal conflicts and Moroccan invasions.

Russian Empire 

The Russian Empire lasted from 1721 until the 1917 Russian Revolution. It was the world's largest country by land area, covering more than one-sixth of the planet's land surface, and the third most populous. The Romanov dynasty ruled the Russian Empire, which was distinguished by a strong government and a rigid hierarchy. The tsar wielded absolute power in this autocracy. The Russian Empire was a multiethnic state with over 100 ethnic groups living within its borders. It was a major player in world affairs and one of the great powers of the nineteenth century. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, which resulted in the establishment of the Soviet Union, the Russian Empire was dissolved.

Qing Empire (China)

The Qing Dynasty was China's final imperial dynasty. It was founded by the Manchu people and ruled from 1644 to 1912. The Qing Empire was distinguished by a centralized government, a social hierarchy, and a bureaucratic rule system. It was also a multicultural state, with Han Chinese, Manchus, Mongols, and other ethnic groups living there. During its reign, the Qing Empire experienced significant economic, social, and cultural development, and it played a significant role in world affairs. It was a major player in the Industrial Revolution and a global power in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Following the Xinhai Revolution, which ended imperial rule in China, the Qing Empire was dissolved in 1912.

Ming Empire (China)

From 1368 to 1644, China was ruled by the Ming dynasty. The Han Chinese established the Ming dynasty after overthrowing the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and establishing a new government in China. The Ming dynasty was well-known for its strong government, cultural achievements, and economic growth. After the tumultuous years of the Mongol invasion and the subsequent Yuan dynasty, it was also a time of relative peace and prosperity in China. The Ming dynasty saw the completion of the Great Wall of China and the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, as well as the development of a thriving economy based on agriculture, trade, and manufacturing. The Ming dynasty ended in 1644, when it was deposed by the Qing dynasty.

Incan Empire

The Incan Empire, also known as the Inca Empire, was a South American empire that was located in the Andes Mountains. It was the largest empire in the pre-Columbian Americas and was centered in what is now Peru. The Incan Empire was founded in the early 13th century and reached its height of power in the 15th century, when it controlled a large territory that included much of the western Andes and parts of present-day Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Incan Empire was known for its advanced system of government, which included a well-organized bureaucracy and a strong centralized administration. It was also known for its impressive architectural achievements, such as the construction of roads, aqueducts, and terraced agriculture. The Incan Empire was conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century, and it was eventually absorbed into the Spanish Empire.

Mexica (Aztec Empire)

The Mexica were a Native American civilization that existed from the 14th to the 16th centuries in central Mexico. They established the Aztec Empire, a vast empire that ruled over much of central and southern Mexico. The Aztec Empire was known for its sophisticated government system, which included an organized bureaucracy and a strong centralized administration. It was also renowned for its architectural and artistic accomplishments, as well as its military prowess. The Aztecs followed a religion based on the worship of a pantheon of gods, and they were known for their elaborate ceremonies and human sacrifices. The Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire in the early 16th century, bringing an end to the Aztec Empire.

Tokugawa Japan

From 1603 to 1868, Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Tokugawa shogunate, a feudal government led by the Tokugawa family, ruled during this period of political stability and economic growth. To maintain control, the Tokugawa shogunate established a strong, centralized government and implemented a number of measures. These measures included Japan's isolation and strict trade regulations. The Tokugawa period was also a time of cultural and artistic flourishing, with the emergence of several distinct artistic styles and the rise of a wealthy, urban merchant class. Following the Meiji Restoration, which ended feudal rule in Japan, the Tokugawa shogunate was deposed in 1868.

Maritime Empires

British Empire

From the 16th to the early 20th centuries, the British Empire was centered in the British Isles. The British Empire was the largest empire in history, with territories on every continent. It was distinguished by a global trade network and a system of colonies and dependencies. The British Empire was a major player in world affairs, helping to shape the modern world. In the twentieth century, the British Empire began to decline.

Spanish Empire

The Spanish Empire was a global empire centered in Spain that ruled over a large portion of the world from the 15th to the early 19th centuries. The Spanish Empire was one of the most powerful empires in history, with territories in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia at its peak. The Spanish Empire was distinguished by a powerful centralized government and a vast network of trade and colonization. In the 18th century, the Spanish Empire began to decline.

Portuguese Empire

From the 15th to the early 20th centuries, the Portuguese Empire ruled over a significant portion of the world. The Portuguese Empire was one of the largest and most powerful empires in history, with territories in Africa, Asia, and the Americas at its peak. The Portuguese Empire was distinguished by a strong centralized government and a global trade and colonization network. The Portuguese Empire declined in the nineteenth century.

French Empire 

From the 16th to the early 20th centuries, the French Empire was centered in France and ruled over the majority of the world. The French Empire was one of the largest and most powerful empires in history, with territories in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia at its peak. The French Empire was distinguished by a powerful centralized government and a vast network of trade and colonization. The French Empire declined in the nineteenth century.

Dutch Empire

The Dutch Empire was a global empire that was centered in the Netherlands and that controlled a significant portion of the world from the 16th to the early 20th century. At its height, the Dutch Empire included territories in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and it was one of the largest and most powerful empires in history. The Dutch Empire was characterized by a strong centralized government and a global network of trade and colonization. The Dutch Empire began to decline in the 19th century.

Difference Between Land-Based and Maritime Empires

A major difference between these two types of empires is that the empires on the left were predominantly land based, meaning most of their power and wealth came from the land, rich agriculture, and profitable trade routes. Those on the right are predominantly maritime based empires, meaning that their power and wealth come from trade overseas, colonies overseas, or controlling overseas trade routes

Administrative Systems

Based on Religious Justification✝️Based on Military Elites🎖
Divine Right of Kings (French Empire), Mandate of Heaven (China), Songhai Islam (Songhai)Devshirme System (Ottoman Empire), Samurai Warriors (Japan)
How governments maintain legitimacy varies across empires, but the chart above illustrates two general ways that empires claimed the right to rule. Military elites refer to a system of warriors who are loyal to the ruler or the state which helps them maintain power. On the other hand, some states relied more on religious justification for their power, claiming direct connection to the divine as the right to rule. It should be understood that these two often mixed.  

Social Hierarchies

Social Hierarchy based on Race/Culture🎎Social Hierarchy based on Religion☪️
Qing Dynasty (Restrictive Policy on Han Chinese), Spanish Empire (The Casta System)The Ottoman Empire (The Millet System), The Mughal Empire (Zamindar/Rajput System)
Organizing a society is essential to maintaining stability within an Empire. A hierarchy determined one's job, what legal rights they had and proximity to power. These hierarchies can be based on physical characteristics, probably the most famous being the Casta System, which was based on perceptions of blood purity. Or they can be based on religion as in many of the Islamic empires; the Millet System gave each religion its own political zone. Although the Islamic zones were above the others, this did provide some stability as each zone was free to practice their own religion.

Maritime Empires

Trading Post EmpiresColonial Empires📍
The Portugese in Africa/India, The Dutch in Southeast AsiaThe French in North America, The British in North America, The Spanish in North and South America
For those empires that expanded overseas, there were two major types that corresponded more to the situation of the colonized regions. During this time, Europeans stuck to themselves in trading posts and did not assert authority over land, but did overseas known as Trading Post Empires. Colonial Empires refers to places where Europeans conquered land and sometimes settled their own populations there. Trading Post Empires often confronted established and long standing empires or populations they could not eliminate or geography that was unfavorable to conquest. The opposite was true for Colonial Empires.
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🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
🕌Unit 3 – Land-Based Empires, 1450-1750
🍕Unit 4 – Transoceanic Interactions, 1450-1750
✊🏽Unit 5 – Revolutions, 1750-1900
🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
💣Unit 7 – Global Conflict, 1900-Present
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✈️Unit 9 – Globalization, 1900-Present
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