Foundation and Empire

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Foundation and Empire
Foundation and empire.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration from the first edition.
AuthorIsaac Asimov
Cover artistEdd Cartier
CountryUnited States
SeriesFoundation Series
GenreScience fiction
PublisherGnome Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Preceded byFoundation 
Followed bySecond Foundation 

Foundation and Empire is a science fiction novel by American writer Isaac Asimov originally published by Gnome Press in 1952. It is the second book in the Foundation Series, and the fourth in the in-universe chronology. It takes place in two parts, originally published as separate novellas. The second part, "The Mule", won a Retro Hugo Award in 1996.

Foundation and Empire saw multiple publications—it also appeared in 1955 as Ace Double (but not actually paired with another book) D-125 under the title The Man Who Upset the Universe. The stories comprising this volume were originally published in Astounding Magazine (with different titles) in 1945. Foundation and Empire was the second book in the Foundation trilogy. Decades later, Asimov wrote two further sequel novels and two prequels. Later writers have added authorized, and unauthorized, tales to the series.

Plot summary[edit]

The General[edit]

The first half of the book, titled "The General", tells how the enterprising General Bel Riose of the Galactic Empire launches an attack against the Foundation. The Empire still retains far more resources and personnel than the Foundation realizes and Riose is willing to use that advantage to its fullest. Lathan Devers, a native of the Foundation, and Ducem Barr, a patrician from the planet Siwenna, have been "guests" of Bel Riose for several months when it becomes clear that they will soon be treated as enemies, or even killed. They escape, stealing a message capsule that appears to implicate the General in treason, and travel to Trantor, to see Emperor Cleon II and show him the message. During their attempts to contact the emperor, Devers and Barr attract the attention of Trantor law enforcement and are forced to flee the planet. In the meantime, the emperor decides that Riose is a threat to his status and to the balance of the Empire and recalls him to Trantor (and has him executed for treason), thus ending the threat to the Foundation.

Afterwards, members of the Foundation attempt to analyze the struggle for power between generals and emperors within the old Empire using the principles of psychohistory. Although Hari Seldon did not leave any advanced knowledge of psychohistory with the Foundation, they come to understand that no action was actually required on their part, as with the previous crises.

The characters of Emperor Cleon II and Bel Riose in this story are based on those of the historical Roman Emperor Justinian I and his general Belisarius. Their story was familiar to Asimov from his recent reading of Robert Graves's novel Count Belisarius, and of his earlier study of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, on which the entire series is loosely based.

"The General" was first published in the April 1945 issue of Astounding Science Fiction under the title "Dead Hand".

The Mule[edit]

The second half of the book, titled "The Mule", takes place approximately one hundred years after the first half. The Empire, after its final phase of decline and civil war, has ceased to exist, Trantor has suffered "The Great Sack" by a "barbarian fleet", and only a small rump state of 20 agricultural planets remain. Most of galactic civilization has disintegrated into barbaric kingdoms.

The Foundation has become the dominant power in the galaxy, controlling its territory through its trading network. The outline of the Seldon Plan has become widely known, and Foundationists and many others believe that as it has accurately predicted previous events, the Foundation's formation of a Second Empire is inevitable. The leadership of the Foundation has become dictatorial and complacent, and many outer planets belonging to the Traders plan to revolt.

An external threat arises in the form of a mysterious man known only as the Mule. The Mule (whose real name is never revealed) is a mutant, and possesses the ability to sense and manipulate the emotions of others, usually creating fear and/or total devotion within his victims. He uses this ability to take over the independent systems bordering the Foundation, and has them wage a war against it. In face of this new threat, the provincial Traders join with the central Foundation leaders against the Mule, believing him to be the new Seldon crisis.

As the Mule advances the Foundation's leaders assume that Seldon predicted this attack, and that the scheduled hologram crisis message appearance of Seldon will again tell them how to win. To their surprise, they learn that Seldon predicted a civil war with the Traders, not the rise of the Mule. The tape suddenly stops as Terminus loses all power in a Mule attack, and the Foundation falls.

Foundation citizens Toran and Bayta Darell, along with the psychologist Ebling Mis and "Magnifico Giganticus", a clown fleeing the Mule's service, travel to different worlds of the Foundation, and finally to the Great Library of Trantor. The Darells and Mis seek to contact the Second Foundation, which they believe will be able to defeat the Mule. They also have suspicions that the Mule wishes to know the location of the Second Foundation as well, so that he can use the First Foundation's technology to destroy it.

At the Great Library, Ebling Mis works continuously until his health fatally deteriorates. As Mis lies dying, he tells Toran, Bayta, and Magnifico that he knows where the Second Foundation is. Before he can reveal the Second Foundation's location, however, Bayta kills him. Bayta had realized, shortly before, that Magnifico was actually the Mule, who had used his powers in every planet they had previously visited. In the same way, he had forced Mis to continue working and find what the Mule was looking for. Bayta had killed Mis to prevent him from revealing the Second Foundation's whereabouts to the Mule.

The Darells are left on Trantor. The Mule leaves to reign over the Foundation and the rest of his new empire. Existence of the Second Foundation, as an organization centered on the science of psychology and mentalics, in contrast to the Foundation's focus on physical sciences, is now known to the Darells and the Mule. Now that the Mule has conquered the Foundation he stands as the most powerful force in the galaxy, and the Second Foundation is the only threat to his eventual rule over the entire galaxy. The Mule promises that he will find the Second Foundation, while Bayta asserts that it has already prepared for him and thus that he will not have enough time before the Second Foundation reacts.

"The Mule" was first published under that title in the November and December 1945 issues of Astounding Science Fiction.


Groff Conklin described Foundation and Empire as "fine swashbuckling galactic adventure [based] on some extremely hard-headed, scientific and mature social-political thinking."[1] Boucher and McComas, however, panned the volume, declaring that "Anyone with a nodding acquaintance with Gibbon, Breasted, or Prescott will find no new concepts [here] save the utterly incomprehensible ones contained in the author's own personal science of 'psycho-history'."[2]

In 1996 "The Mule" was retrospectively awarded a Hugo Award for best novel of 1945. The Foundation trilogy, of which Foundation and Empire is the second book, won a Hugo Award in 1966 for Best All-Time Series.

The Visi-Sonor inspired the Holophonor, a similar instrument that appears several times in the cartoon Futurama.[3]


"The General" or "Dead Hand"[edit]

"The Mule"[edit]

  • The Mule, a mutant who captures the Foundation and attempts to establish a Second Empire.
    • Magnifico Giganticus, a fictitious identity assumed by the Mule to disguise himself and approach the unsuspecting Toran and Bayta Darell in Kalgan. Magnifico purports to be the former clown of the Mule, having escaped from his master.
  • Toran and Bayta Darell, Husband and wife, Bayta a former citizen of The Foundation, Toran a trader of the periphery planet of Haven.
  • Captain Han Pritcher, an intelligence agent for the Foundation, and the first to recognise the power of the Mule.
  • Mayor Indbur III, Mayor of the Foundation during the Mule's conquest.
  • Ebling Mis, the psychologist who discovered the location of the Second Foundation.
  • Dagobert IX, one of the last emperors on Neotrantor.



  1. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1953, p.97
  2. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, January 1953, p.90
  3. ^ Cohen, David X. (2003). Futurama season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.


  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923–1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 301.

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