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List of largest empires

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An empire involves the extension of a state's sovereignty over external territories and 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. This article provides 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.


Measurement[edit]

Both what constitutes an empire and the calculation of the land area of a particular empire are controversial subjects. Taagepera defines 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] 8.8 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 9.2% 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]
Tang dynasty 10.76[5] 4.15 7.22% 669[5]
Portuguese Empire 10.4[6] 4.02 6.98% 1815[6]
Xiongnu Empire 9.0[4][7] 3.47 6.04% 176 BC[4][7]
Empire of Brazil 8.337[8] 3.22 5.6% 1889[8]
Eastern Han Dynasty 6.5[7] 2.51 4.36% 100[7]
Ming dynasty 6.5[3][4] 2.51 4.36% 1450[3][4]
Rashidun Caliphate 6.4[3] 2.47 4.3% 655[3]
Göktürk Khaganate 6.0[4][7] 2.32 4.03% 557[4][7]
Golden Horde Khanate 6.0[3][4] 2.32 4.03% 1310[3][4]
Western Han Dynasty 6.0[4][7] 2.32 4.03% 50 BC[4][7]
Achaemenid Empire 5.5[4][7] 2.12 3.69% 500 BC[4][7]
Macedonian Empire 5.2[4][7] 2.01 3.49% 323 BC[4][7]
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][7] 1.93 3.36% 117[4][7]
Tibetan Empire 4.6[3][4] 1.78 3.09% 800[3][4]
Timurid Empire 4.4[3][4] 1.7 2.95% 1405[3][4]
Fatimid Caliphate 4.1[3][4] 1.58 2.75% 969[3][4]
Eastern Turkic Khaganate 4.0[7] 1.54 2.69% 624[7]
Hephthalite Empire 4.0[7] 1.54 2.69% 470[7]
Hunnic Empire 4.0[4][7] 1.54 2.69% 441[4][7]
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][7] 1.51 2.62% 301 BC[4][7]
Italian Empire 3.798[9] 1.47 2.55% 1938[9]
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][7] 1.35 2.35% 550[4][7]
Western Turkic Khaganate 3.5[7] 1.35 2.35% 630[7]
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 3.2[3][4] 1.24 2.15% 1312[3][4]
German colonial empire 3.199[10][11] 1.24 2.15% 1912[11]
Song dynasty 3.1[3][4] 1.2 2.08% 980[3][4]
Uyghur Khaganate 3.1[3][4] 1.2 2.08% 800[3][4]
Western Jin dynasty 3.1[7] 1.2 2.08% 280[7]
Khazar Khanate 3.0[4] 1.16 2.01% 850[4]
Sui Dynasty 3.0[7] 1.16 2.01% 589[7]

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. doi:10.2307/1170959. JSTOR 1170959. 
  2. ^ CIA – The World Factbook
  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 Rein Taagepera (September 1997). "Expansion and Contraction Patterns of Large Polities: Context for Russia". International Studies Quarterly. 41 (3): 492–502. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00053. JSTOR 2600793. 
  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 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 宋, 岩. 中国历史上几个朝代的疆域面积估算. p. 150. The table in the URL was a page from the book. It lists the Chinese dynasties' names in the first column, the start and end date in the next two column, the year of their height in the third column, and the area in the last column. If you scroll down to 唐 (Tang), you can see that the table from the book says that it lasted from 618-907, with its height at 669 and with an area of 1076 万平方公里, or 10.76 million square kilometers 
  6. ^ a b Brzezinski, Zbigniew (2013). Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. New York: Basic Books. p. 10. ISBN 9780465061815. 
  7. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/1170959. JSTOR 1170959. 
  8. ^ 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 8.337.218km2 foi obtido a partir de medições e cálculos efetuados sobre as folhas básicas da Carta do Império do Brasil, publicada em 1883. [in English?]
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "Encyclopedia 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. 
  11. ^ 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.]