3.1 Expansion of Land-Based Empires

7 min readjanuary 3, 2023

Evan Liddle

Evan Liddle

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Formation of Land Based Empires

What Are Land-Based Empires?

A land-based empire is an empire that is primarily based on the control and administration of land and territory. This type of empire often expands through military conquests, as it seeks to gain control over new territories and resources. Land-based empires can be found throughout history and have varied in size, power, and influence. Some examples of land-based empires include the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire, the British Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Land-based empires are often characterized by a centralized system of government, with a strong ruler or ruling body at the top and a hierarchy of officials and administrators responsible for managing the various territories and populations within the empire. These empires also often have a strong military presence, both to defend the empire's territory and to expand its borders. Land-based empires are also often marked by cultural exchange and mixing, as the various territories and peoples within the empire come into contact with one another and exchange ideas, technologies, and cultural practices.

How Do They Expand?

Land-based empires often expand through military conquests, as they seek to gain control over new territories and resources. This can be accomplished through the use of force, as well as through diplomacy and trade. Some empires may also expand through colonization, by establishing colonies or settlements in new territories and establishing their control over them.
Empires may expand for a variety of reasons, including economic, strategic, and ideological motivations. For example, an empire may seek to expand in order to gain access to valuable resources, such as minerals, land, or labor, or to secure trade routes and markets. An empire may also expand in order to protect its own interests and defend against potential threats from other powers. Ideological factors, such as a belief in the superiority of one's own culture or a desire to spread a particular ideology or religion, may also play a role in the expansion of an empire.
The expansion of land-based empires often has significant consequences for the peoples and cultures of the territories that are conquered or colonized. The arrival of a new power may bring significant changes to the social, political, and economic systems of these territories, as well as to their cultural practices and traditions. The expansion of an empire can also lead to conflict and resistance from those who are opposed to the empire's rule.
In short, these empires formed like any other: through a conquest of economically or strategically important areas. But in particular, there are a few unique ways these empires were forged. 
🎥Watch: WHAP - Land Based Empires


Many of these empires are also known in AP World, and in many textbooks used in AP World, as “Gunpowder Empires” because they were some of the first to employ gunpowder armies en masse, several hundred years before Europe.

Gunpowder Empires

The "Gunpowder Empires" were a group of three empires that emerged in the late medieval and early modern periods and are known for their use of gunpowder weapons and their cultural and technological achievements. These empires include:
  • The Ottoman Empire: A Muslim empire that ruled over a large territory that included parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa from the late 13th to the early 20th century. It was known for its use of artillery and its sophisticated system of government and administration.
  • The Safavid Empire: A Persian empire that ruled over parts of modern-day Iran and Iraq from the early 16th to the mid-18th century. It was known for its use of artillery and its cultural achievements, including the development of a distinct Safavid style of art and architecture.
  • The Mughal Empire: A Muslim dynasty that ruled over a large territory that included parts of modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh from the early 16th to the mid-19th century. It was known for its use of artillery and its cultural achievements, including the construction of the Taj Mahal and the development of a distinct Mughal style of art and architecture.
In the early days of gunpowder weaponry, it was a highly technical craft: an empire needed a large, skilled population to cast the metal parts for weapons as well as a resource pool to manufacture gunpowder. Training soldiers in gunpowder weaponry also took time and money, money only a large empire possessed. But even smaller states like the Tokugawa Shogunate owed their success to the carefully trained use of gunpowder weapons. 

Tokugawa Shogunate

The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Edo period, was a period in Japanese history that lasted from 1603 to 1868. It was a time of relative peace and stability, marked by the centralization of power under the Tokugawa Shogunate, a hereditary military dictatorship that ruled Japan during this time. The shogunate was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who emerged as the dominant power in Japan after the end of the Sengoku period and was appointed shogun by the emperor.
The Tokugawa Shogunate implemented a number of policies that had a lasting impact on Japan, including the sakoku policy, which isolated Japan from the rest of the world and restricted foreign trade and contact. The shogunate also established a system of feudalism, in which the daimyo, or regional lords, were required to spend every other year in the capital, Edo (present-day Tokyo). This helped to further consolidate the shogunate's power and maintain stability throughout the country.
During the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan underwent significant economic and cultural development. The economy became more centralized and industrialized, and the arts, including literature, theater, and the tea ceremony, flourished. The shogunate also established a system of legal codes and administered justice through a network of local officials and courts. The Tokugawa Shogunate ended in 1868, when the Meiji Restoration restored power to the emperor and ended the shogunate's rule.
The first gunpowder weapons were used by the Song Dynasty in China, but the Islamic Empires (Ottomans, Mughals, and Safavids) and Qing China were the first to utilize them to a greater extent. The capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans and the conquest of Central Asia by the Qing in the late 1600s both owed their success to gunpowder weapons.  Later, after 1800, industrial manufacturing would give Europe a decisive edge in this regard.

Cannon made castles obsolete and the use of gunpowder made possible rapid expansion of an empire. It was said Constantinople was impregnable, but this was no longer true after the rise of the cannon. Image Courtesy of University of South Florida

Trade and Tax Diplomacy 

Another feature that helped a number of these empires rise to prominence was their friendly attitude toward merchants and the reduction of existing taxes. The Ottomans and Mughals in particular are known for this. The Mughals, in the early days of their empire, abolished the jizya tax on non-Muslims (the majority of the population) and the Ottomans also had notably lower taxes than some of the empires they conquered, such as the Byzantines. 

Jizya Tax

Jizya is a tax that was imposed on non-Muslim subjects of Muslim states in the past. In some cases, the payment of jizya was seen as a mark of the subject's submission to Muslim rule and protection against military aggression. In other cases, it was seen as a way to ensure that non-Muslim subjects received the same level of protection as Muslims, while also acknowledging the fact that they were not required to participate in the defense of the state.
Jizya was typically imposed on adult males of a certain age who were able to pay it and who were not otherwise exempt, such as monks, the poor, and the disabled. The amount of jizya that was paid varied depending on the individual's wealth and social status. In some cases, jizya was seen as a burden on non-Muslim subjects and was resented, while in other cases it was seen as a fair and necessary contribution to the state.
Jizya is no longer widely practiced in the modern world, but it was an important part of the legal and social systems of many Muslim states in the past.

Conquering Other Empires

Many of the empires in this study guide toppled existing empires that had weakened over time. Sometimes these were established empires such as the Byzantines, toppled by the Ottomans, or Mali, which was subjugated by Songhai. Other times these were the descendants of nomadic conquerors, such as the Timurid Empire in Persia, conquered by the Safavids, or the Yuan Dynasty in China, overthrown by the future leaders of the Ming Dynasty. 
Why empires weaken and fall is complex and unique to each empire. Nomadic empires often weakened after their initial conquest because of their limited experience governing settled landed states or because they adapted so much to local customs and lost their fighting edge and distinctive identity. Also, with the rise of gunpowder weapons, nomads in particular lost their edge when horses were no longer the most important weapon on the battlefield. 
🎥Watch: WHAP - Expanding Empires in the Early Modern World 👉 Try using a study timer like the one in Fiveable rooms to maximize your efficiency when preparing for the exam!
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🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
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🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
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