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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 33.0[3][4] 9.27 16.11% 1270[4] or 1309[3]
Russian Empire 22.8[3][4] 8.8 15.31% 1895[3][4]
Spanish Empire 20.0[3] 5.29 9.2% 1810[3]
Qing dynasty 14.7[3][4] 5.68 9.87% 1790[3][4]
Yuan dynasty 14.5[3] 4.25 7.39% 1310[3]
Umayyad Caliphate 13.0[3] 4.29 7.45% 720[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]
Rashidun Caliphate 9.4[3] 2.47 4.3% 655[3]
Empire of Brazil 8.51[3] 3.29 5.71% 1900[3]
Achaemenid Empire 8.0[4][5] 2.12 3.69% 500 BC[4][5]
Eastern Han Dynasty 6.5[5] 2.51 4.36% 100[5]
Ming dynasty 6.5[3][4] 2.51 4.36% 1450[3][4]
Göktürk Khaganate 6.0[4][5] 2.32 4.03% 557[4][5]
Golden Horde Khanate 6.0[3][4] 2.32 4.03% 1310[3][4]
Western Han Dynasty 6.0[4][5] 2.32 4.03% 50 BC[4][5]
Portuguese Empire 5.5[3] 2.12 3.69% 1820[3]
Tang dynasty 5.4[3][4] 2.08 3.63% 715[3][4]
Macedonian Empire 5.2[4][5] 2.01 3.49% 323 BC[4][5]
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][5] 1.93 3.36% 117[4][5]
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]
Xiongnu Empire 4.03[4][5] 3.47 6.04% 176 BC[4][5]
Eastern Turkic Khaganate 4.0[5] 1.54 2.69% 624[5]
Hephthalite Empire 4.0[5] 1.54 2.69% 470[5]
Hunnic Empire 4.0[4][5] 1.54 2.69% 441[4][5]
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][5] 1.51 2.62% 301 BC[4][5]
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][5] 1.35 2.35% 550[4][5]
Western Turkic Khaganate 3.5[5] 1.35 2.35% 630[5]
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]
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[5] 1.2 2.08% 280[5]
Khazar Khanate 3.0[4] 1.16 2.01% 850[4]
Sui Dynasty 3.0[5] 1.16 2.01% 589[5]

See also[edit]

General:

By era:

By region:

By area:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Taagepera, Rein (1 January 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. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  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 bb bc bd be bf bg 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. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  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 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. Retrieved 25 August 2016.