List of largest empires

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This is a list of the largest empires in world history, but the list is not and cannot be definitive since the decision about which entities to consider as "empires" is difficult and fraught with controversy.

An empire involves the extension of a state's sovereignty over external territories and a variety of different ethnic groups, the term "empire" in this context (not necessarily a state ruled by an emperor) does not have a precise definition, but is generally applied to political entities that are considered to be especially large by the standards of their time and that have acquired a significant part of their territory by conquest.

Measurement[edit]

Both what constitutes an empire and the calculation of the land area of a particular empire are controversial subjects. Rein Taagepera has defined an empire as "any relatively large sovereign political entity whose components are not sovereign" and its size as the area over which the empire has some undisputed military and taxation prerogatives.[1]

Largest empires by land area[edit]

For context, note that the total land area of the Earth is 148,940,000 km2 (57,500,000 sq mi).[2] This is a list of empires whose greatest extent exceeded 2% of that area.

Empires at their greatest extent[edit]

Empire Max. land area (million km2) Max. land area (million mi2) % of world land area Year
British Empire 35.5[3] 13.71 23.84% 1920[3]
Mongol Empire 24.0[3][4] 9.27 16.11% 1270[4] or 1309[3]
Russian Empire 22.8[3][4] 8.80 15.31% 1895[3][4]
Qing dynasty 14.7[3][4] 5.68 9.87% 1790[3][4]
Spanish Empire 13.7[3] 5.29 9.20% 1810[3]
Second French colonial empire 11.5[3] 4.44 7.72% 1920[3]
Abbasid Caliphate 11.1[3][4] 4.29 7.45% 750[3][4]
Umayyad Caliphate 11.1[3] 4.29 7.45% 720[3]
Yuan dynasty 11.0[3] 4.25 7.39% 1310[3]
Portuguese Empire 10.4[5] 4.02 6.98% 1815[5]
Xiongnu Empire 9.0[4][6] 3.47 6.04% 176 BC[4][6]
Empire of Brazil 8.337[7] 3.22 5.60% 1889[7]
Eastern Han Dynasty 6.5[6] 2.51 4.36% 100[6]
Ming dynasty 6.5[3][4] 2.51 4.36% 1450[3][4]
Rashidun Caliphate 6.4[3] 2.47 4.30% 655[3]
Göktürk Khaganate 6.0[4][6] 2.32 4.03% 557[4][6]
Golden Horde Khanate 6.0[3][4] 2.32 4.03% 1310[3][4]
Western Han Dynasty 6.0[4][6] 2.32 4.03% 50 BC[4][6]
Achaemenid Empire 5.5[4][6] 2.12 3.69% 500 BC[4][6]
Tang dynasty 5.4[3][4] 2.08 3.63% 715[3][4]
Macedonian Empire 5.2[4][6] 2.01 3.49% 323 BC[4][6]
Ottoman Empire 5.2[3][4] 2.01 3.49% 1683[3][4]
Maurya Empire 5.0[4] 1.93 3.36% 250 BC[4]
Roman Empire 5.0[4][6] 1.93 3.36% 117[4][6]
Tibetan Empire 4.6[3][4] 1.78 3.09% 800[3][4]
Timurid Empire 4.4[3][4] 1.70 2.95% 1405[3][4]
Fatimid Caliphate 4.1[3][4] 1.58 2.75% 969[3][4]
Eastern Turkic Khaganate 4.0[6] 1.54 2.69% 624[6]
Hephthalite Empire 4.0[6] 1.54 2.69% 470[6]
Hunnic Empire 4.0[4][6] 1.54 2.69% 441[4][6]
Mughal Empire 4.0[3][4] 1.54 2.69% 1690[3][4]
Great Seljuq Empire 3.9[3][4] 1.51 2.62% 1080[3][4]
Seleucid Empire 3.9[4][6] 1.51 2.62% 301 BC[4][6]
Italian Empire 3.798[8] 1.47 2.55% 1938[8]
Ilkhanate 3.75[3][4] 1.45 2.52% 1310[3][4]
Khwarazmian Empire 3.6[3] 1.39 2.42% 1218[3]
Chagatai Khanate 3.5[3][4] 1.35 2.35% 1310[3] or 1350[3][4]
Gupta Empire 3.5[4] 1.35 2.35% 400[4]
Sasanian Empire 3.5[4][6] 1.35 2.35% 550[4][6]
Western Turkic Khaganate 3.5[6] 1.35 2.35% 630[6]
First French colonial empire 3.4[3] 1.31 2.28% 1670[3]
Ghaznavid Empire 3.4[3][4] 1.31 2.28% 1029[3][4]
Delhi Sultanate (Tughlaq dynasty) 3.2[3][4] 1.24 2.15% 1312[3][4]
German colonial empire 3.199[9][10] 1.24 2.15% 1912[10]
Song dynasty 3.1[3][4] 1.20 2.08% 980[3][4]
Uyghur Khaganate 3.1[3][4] 1.20 2.08% 800[3][4]
Western Jin dynasty 3.1[6] 1.20 2.08% 280[6]
Khazar Khanate 3.0[4] 1.16 2.01% 850[4]
Sui Dynasty 3.0[6] 1.16 2.01% 589[6]

See also[edit]

General:

By era:

By region:

By area:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.". Social Science History. 3 (3/4): 117. JSTOR 1170959. doi:10.2307/1170959. 
  2. ^ "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved March 27, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc Rein Taagepera (September 1997). "Expansion and Contraction Patterns of Large Polities: Context for Russia". International Studies Quarterly. 41 (3): 492–502. JSTOR 2600793. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00053. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj Turchin, Peter; Adams, Jonathan M.; Hall, Thomas D. (December 2006). "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires". Journal of world-systems research. 12 (2): 222–223. ISSN 1076-156X. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Brzezinski, Zbigniew (2013). Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. New York: Basic Books. p. 10. ISBN 9780465061815. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.". Social Science History. 3 (3/4): 121–122, 124–125, 127–129, 132–133. JSTOR 1170959. doi:10.2307/1170959. 
  7. ^ a b "Área Territorial Brasileira". www.ibge.gov.br (in Portuguese). Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Retrieved 16 October 2016. A primeira estimativa oficial para a extensão superficial do território brasileiro data de 1889. O valor de 8.337.218 km2 foi obtido a partir de medições e cálculos efetuados sobre as folhas básicas da Carta do Império do Brasil, publicada em 1883. [The first official estimate of the surface area of the Brazilian territory dates from 1889. A value of 8,337,218 km2 was obtained from measurements and calculations made on drafts of the Map of the Empire of Brazil, published in 1883.] 
  8. ^ a b Harrison, Mark (2000). The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780521785037. Retrieved 2 October 2016. 
  9. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica: Germany from 1871 to 1918". Retrieved 29 September 2016. At its birth Germany occupied an area of 208,825 square miles (540,854 square km) and had a population of more than 41 million, which was to grow to 67 million by 1914. 
  10. ^ a b "Statistische Angaben zu den deutschen Kolonien". www.dhm.de (in German). Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 29 September 2016. Sofern nicht anders vermerkt, beziehen sich alle Angaben auf das Jahr 1912.  [Except where otherwise noted, all figures relate to the year 1912.]