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Arnold Toynbee's concept of a universal state
Before modern times, the reach of political control and military force was limited by rudimentary transportation technologies and knowledge of geography. The Roman Empire had goals of global domination, and indeed the empire was able to conquer most of the "known world" (i.e., the Mediterranean) throughout its long history. The Qin and Han dynasties as well as the Tang of China were also successful in conquering the known world of Chinese civilization. Historian Arnold Toynbee used the term Universal State to refer to an empire like the Roman Empire or Chinese Empire that conquered the entire world known to a particular civilization.
Examples of universal states
As noted above, a universal state is an empire that has conquered most of the area known to a civilization.
The Assyrian Empire at its height in the 934 BC under Tiglath-Pileser III, was the strongest empire in the region with its influence stretching as far as Mesopotamia, the Levant, Lower Egypt, Eastern Turkey, Western Persia, and Northern Arabia.
Ashoka the Great, after defeating the Kingdom of Kalinga in the Kalinga War, renounced violence, and at the height of his empire in 250 BC adopted Buddhism. He became a person who is sometimes regarded as the most enlightened ruler ever and envisioned a world governed by the compassionate eightfold path of Buddhism, sending out missionaries from Ancient India to as far as Ancient Rome and Egypt.
- Toynbee, Arnold A Study of History--Volume XII: Reconsiderations London:1961--Oxford University Press Pages 308-313 "Universal States".
- Toynbee, Arnold A Study of History: Abridged One Volume Illustrated Edition (revised and abridged by the author and Jane Caplan) New York:1972—Portland House Chapter VI Universal States Pages 255-318