Guide Conceiving the Empire: China and Rome Compared

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Back 0 Marked Mark Options. Holdings In. Subjects subject. History, Ancient--Historiography. China--History--Han dynasty, B. Rome--History--Empire 30 B. More Details added author. Mittag, Achim, Mutschler, Fritz-Heiner. The birth of the imperial order. The idea of 'empire' : its genesis before and its unfolding after the emergence of the empire.

Historiography and the emerging empire. Imagining the empire?

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The firmly established empire. The spatial dimension of the unified world : imperial geography and cartographical representations. Self-image and the formation of imperial rhetorics. The power of images : imperial order and imperial aura as represented in art and architecture.


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The waning of the imperial order. History-writing in the face of crisis. When the imperial order disintegrates : rethinking the 'empire' under religious auspices. A Look Inside Reviews. This is not only a matter of ancient history, but of history with a sharp contemporary relevance. This remarkably rich book represents a highly valuable contribution to cross-cultural studies of Rome and China. The book is an admirable demonstration of the great potential that lies in comparative analysis of the Greco-Roman world Ancient China.

To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities. Main Description. The essays in Conceiving the Empire explore the mental images, ideas, and symbolical representations of 'empire' which developed in the two most powerful political entities of antiquity: China and Rome.

Other enlightening studies on the formation of early states include William Doyle , Charles Tilly , Hendrik Spruyt , and Philip Bobbitt In the academic headquarters of political science more strictly defined, the role of violence and coercion in the formation of states was also stressed by Margaret Levi , and Robert H. Bates Bertrand Badie and Pierre Birnbaum remarked that the state is but one possible institutional formula in complex societies in the modern world.

The failure of the state model beyond Europe was subsequently analyzed also by Bertrand Badie A few works dealing more directly with political and governmental processes in empires must be mentioned. A long-term historical sociology of empires was also developed by Michael W. Doyle , who presented empires as forced by either force, collaboration, or dependence. Later on, Samuel E. Finer provided the only political science-oriented history of government in the world that goes beyond the last years Finer, In his extensive survey, the category of city-republics includes a number of cases in Mesopotamia, the poleis of Greece, and the medieval Europe.

But it has also been argued that, in the current world, the states themselves are suffering processes of both disaggregation into small polities along the revived tradition of city-republics and aggregation into large territorial units of imperial size. Von der Muhll Historian Peter Turchin has remarked the role of cooperation among people who have to band together to fight off a common enemy in the formation of empires.

Other recent contributions were motivated by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the expectation of a new world order under the hegemony of the United States. Alexander J. Motyl surveyed the historical decay and collapse of empires. Frederick Cooper and Jane Burbank focused on how empires accommodated differences among populations. And James Muldoon reviewed the history of the various concepts of empire.

Plague Helped Bring Down Roman Empire, Graveyard Suggests

One of the reasons for overlooking the usefulness of the concept of empire may have lied in its confusion with imperialism. A polity can be organized as a city, a county, a region, a state, a federation, or an international organization, among other categories, each based on different scales of the territories under their jurisdictions.

Imperialism is something different: a policy of conquest and domination of foreign lands and populations. In fact, an imperialistic policy can be implemented not only by an empire, but also by the other forms of polity. There can be imperialistic states, as was the case of the colonial empires of European states in America, Africa, and Asia.

And there can even be imperialistic cities, as historical experiences such as those of Sparta or Venice, for instance, can suggest. Likewise, polities like a city, a state, or an empire can do non-imperialistic policies, but favor transnational cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Modern history shows all these alternatives. An imperialistic policy and an imperial polity are two different things that may come together or not. An encompassing review of ideologies of imperialism is provided by Jennifer Pitts Niall Ferguson , has discussed the relevance of the experience of the British and the American empires for the organization of the current globalized world.

Empires tend to expand over the territory, up to the point of conflict with other empires, and when in decline they may also contract. In ancient and medieval times, an empire could be comprised of cities, republics, counties, principalities, bishoprics, and other varied forms of political organization.


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  • Today, multiethnic federations can be arranged with less heterogeneous institutional regimes. But democratic empires may also include political units organized with different forms of parliamentary or presidential, uni-chamber or multi-chamber, monarchical or republican governments. They may be linked to the center by diverse institutional formulas. Within an empire, no authority typically rules with exclusive powers. Rather, the central government may rule indirectly through local governments; the latter develop self-government on important issues; power sharing is widespread.

    In order to facilitate the exercise of its functions and consummate its exclusiveness, the state tends to establish a uniform administration over the territory, as well as to promote the homogenization of important social and cultural characteristics of its subjects or citizens. Sovereign states succeeded in Europe within a historical period that began only about years ago as they emerged from and consolidated themselves against previously existing empires.

    Plague Helped Bring Down Roman Empire, Graveyard Suggests | Live Science

    The earliest political units deserving to be called states were England, France, Spain, and Sweden, which were formed on territories located at the periphery of the former Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. New large states were also formed later in the core territory of the Holy Roman Empire, that is, Italy and Germany, but in these cases in a much more decentralized way based on the aggregation of a networks of midsize cities and regions. Beyond Western Europe, the model of the sovereign state has been much less successful. For almost years, until the Civil War, the American Union was characterized by unstable borders, weak federal institutions, and a variety of formulas along the territory including states, commonwealths, and territories directly riled from Washington.

    The transformation from empire to federation was completed only by the early 20th century, when the basic federal institutions were established, including those for finances the Federal Reserve , security FBI , and representation homogeneous electoral systems for the House, the Senate, and the Presidential College. In Asia, a few very large, overpopulated empires have also escaped from the project of statization: China, the compound India-Pakistan-Bangladesh, as well as Indonesia and Japan, have maintained certain traditional imperial characteristics of internal complexity, not adopting the homogenizing features of modern European states mentioned above.

    Indeed, the larger and more powerful states of Europe, which had been created as an alternative formula to empires, engendered new colonial empires in other parts of the world. But when the people of the colonies rid themselves of imperial domination, paradoxically, they also lost the large-scale networks of imperial size able to provide common security, open trade, and other large-scale service.

    The experience was less successful than it was in the metropolis—in many cases, a failure indeed. An empire is, thus, an alternative political form to a state. It should also be distinguished from a federation. Like a federation, an empire implies multiple levels of government focused on policy issues at different territorial scales and some overlaps. Unlike a federation, an empire has no fixed borders, it involves different links of the territorial units with the center, and has pervading asymmetries, whether regarding the territory, the economy, the powers of the units, and the institutions.

    Changes in the size and other defining characteristics of political units, that is, the prevalence of either vast empires or large states or smaller communities in different historical periods has been derived from two factors. First, they can be fostered by technological changes, especially regarding war, transports, and communication.

    Second, institutional changes are produced by human decisions favoring security, freedom, and well-being, such as can be provided by modern electoral democracies. At the same time, in the long term, there has been an ever-continuing historical trend toward larger empires.

    According to the data provided by Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones and Taagepera , there is no evidence of empires larger than 10, km 2 much before BC. The largest ancient empires, in Egypt and Mesopotamia, with about one million km 2 , were still tiny compared to the present ones. The largest ones at the beginning of our era, in China and Rome, were already much larger, with about five million km 2. But modern empires, including Russia and the colonial empires of Spain and Britain, have encompassed double-digit millions of km 2.

    This continuing trend toward larger sizes of empires has been enabled, indeed, by technological advances in transports and communications. Roads, canals, harbors, railways, and highways have always formed the skeleton of empires. But things changed dramatically with the invention of the telegraphy in the 19th century, later followed by the telephony and the Internet, which created the age of instant communication.

    The art of government at a distance has multiplied the size of viable empires. Virtually none of the territories of the currently existing states in the world has been alien or outside some large modern empire.

    Possibly the only exception is Thailand which emerged from the old kingdom of Siam without Western colonization. The present world can be seen as organized in at least four very large, powerful empires. In alphabetical order, which may coincide with the order of their relative strength, they are the following: America, China, Europe, and Russia.

    Four more very large units could also be considered of the imperial type, at least in terms of the size and variety of their population, and, in most cases, the multilevel federal-type of their internal organization; they are India, closely linked to Pakistan and Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, and Brazil Australia and Canada have comparable territorial sizes to the empires mentioned, but they are heavily underpopulated. The concept of empire has been used to analyze, in particular, the current European Union. After a few centuries of continuous and increasing warfare, after the Second World War the larger European states found a new way for peace and prosperity by building what some authors have called a new kind of Europe-wide empire.

    The union has based on military, commercial, economic, monetary, and political cooperation among states. Its most recent expansion was a consequence of the end of the Cold War, which brought about the Soviet disunion of the Russian Empire and the disintegration of the multiethnic Yugoslavia. Within a couple of years after , 20 new independent republics were created in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Figure 2.

    Colonial empires: Spain 16th century, Britain 20th century, France 20th century. But many of these either sought their salvation by applying to membership to the increasingly large, democratic and market-oriented European Empire, or languished isolated in the hands of dictatorial and ineffectual rulers. For the social sciences, however, this only means that there is not a sufficiently broad analytical concept capable of including this case among those with common relevant characteristics.

    For a comparison between the processes of constitutional building of the European Union and of the United States of America, see the symposium organized by Richard Bellamy The war motives in building large empires like the European one were remarked by William H.