Empires are created when a single state extends its sovereignty over multiple external territories inhabited by numerous ethnicities. Ever since the history of mankind there have been individuals or groups of people with the ambitions to take over the entire known world, they may have not succeeded in conquering the world completely but they created huge empires expanding on multiple continents in trying to do so.
Different people have been motivated for different reasons, some of them wanted to establish worldwide supremacy of their people or of themselves while others were moved by just their greed to conquer more land and resources.
Whatever their motivation may have been, here is the list of the top ten largest empires created in the history of the world.
10. Portuguese Empire
Maximum Land Area: 10.4 million km2
% of world land area: 6.89%
The Portuguese empire was not only the longest modern European empires it was also the first real worldwide empire in the history of the world. Starting in 1415 from the conquest of Ceuta it lasted for almost six centuries till the handover of Macau in 1999, however some experts say it ended in 2002 when East Timor was granted sovereignty.
There are now about 60 separate sovereign countries in the area which was once part of the Portuguese empire. This all began when the Portuguese developed cartography, navigation and maritime technology to find new trade routes in 1418. These advancements allowed the Portuguese to carve out an empire that included territories from South America to Africa.
9. Yuan Dynasty
Maximum Land Area: 11.0 million km2
% of world land area: 7.39%
The first foreign dynasty to rule over China completely, the Yuan dynasty or officially known as the Great Yuan was established by Kublai Khan who was the clan leader of the Mongolian Borjigin. The Yuan dynasty has the distinction of being an imperial Chinese dynasty and at the same time being a successor of the Mongol empire.
The Yuan dynasty controlled almost all of China and many of the surrounding territories including Korea and Mongolia. The Yuan dynasty lasted till 1368 and although it was established by Kublai Khan he mentioned Genghis Khan, his grandfather as the founder of the dynasty in the imperial records.
8. Umayyad Caliphate
Maximum Land Area: 11.1 million km2
% of world land area: 7.45%
One of the four main caliphates after the demise of prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Umayyad caliphate was established by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan who was the long serving governor of Syria, the Umayyad family hailed from Mecca and the third caliph of the muslims Usman ibn Affan (R.A) was also an Umayyad.
The Umayyad caliphate started its conquests by conquering Damascus first, later it captured the a large portion of the known world including Transoxiana, Caucasus, Sindh, Iberian Peninsula and Maghreb. At its peak the Umayyad caliphate was one of the largest empires in the world both by population and proportion.
7. Abbasid Caliphate
Maximum Land Area: 11.1 million km2
% of world land area: 7.45%
Descended from prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) youngest uncle Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, the Abbasid caliphate was the third Muslim caliphate after the prophet’s (PBUH) death. They succeeded the Umayyads in 750 CE and assumed authority over Muslim empire with Baghdad as the capital of the caliphate.
The Abbasid caliphate controlled the entire area which was previously under the Umayyad caliphate but they lost most of their territories first to the Umayyads who took the control of Al-Andalus and Maghreb and then to Moroccans and the Fatimids. The mongol invasion ended their rule effectively although they continued to claim authority in religious matters.
6. Second French Colonial Empire
Maximum Land Area: 11.5 million km2
% of world land area: 7.72%
The first French colonial empire existed in until 1814 when France has lost most of its territories, in 1830 France successfully conquered Algiers and started the second French colonial empire which remained until the 1960s when France peacefully decolonized after losing to Vietnam in 1955 and Algeria in 1962.
The second French colonial empire focused mainly on Africa as there was less competition from it European neighbors like England and Portugal, France also captured some areas of South Pacific ocean and Indochina. At its peak the French empire ruled over a population of 110 million people and 11,500,000 square kilometers of land.
5. Spanish Empire
Maximum Land Area: 13.7 million km2
% of world land area: 9.2%
Under the leadership of the Habsburg dynasty the Spanish empire became the very first true global empire in the world during the 16th and 17th century. The Spanish empire was once the largest empires on earth and it was the first empire to labeled as “empire on which the sun never sets.”
At its peak the Spanish empire controlled territories in Africa, Asia, Oceania, most of South America, part of North America, Central America and Europe, this was the era when the Spanish empire reached its economic and political heights. The Spanish empire lasted as long as until 1970 till the decolonization of Africa.
4. Qing Dynasty
Maximum Land Area: 14.7 million km2
% of world land area: 9.87%
Also known as the Empire of the Great King, the Qing dynasty ruled from 1644 to 1912 and it was the last imperial dynasty of China. The Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan of Manchuria founded the Qing dynasty. With the passage of time the Manchu integrated into the Chinese culture, the dynasty ultimately ended due to natural disasters and military defeats against western kingdoms. At its peak the Qing dynasty ruled over 9.87% of the total area of the world.
3. Russian Empire
Maximum Land Area: 22.8 million km2
% of world land area: 15.31%
Before the liberal revolution in 1917, Russia was known as the Russian Empire and it had existed from 1721 as one of the largest empires in the history of the world. At its peak the Russian Empire extended over three continents and came only after the British and Mongolian Empire.
A major reason for the rise of the Russian Empire was the decline of the neighboring empires mainly the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, Persia, the Ottoman Empire. The Russian Empire before the revolution of 1905 worked as an absolute monarchy.
2. Mongol Empire
Maximum Land Area: 24.0 million km2
% of world land area: 16.11%
The largest contiguous land empire in the history of the world, the Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in the 13th century and it stretched from the steppes of Central Asia and it covered massive territory including areas of Central Europe, Indochina, Iranian Plateau and even Siberia.
Genghis Khan successfully gathered all the individual Mongol nomadic tribes and took over Mongolia as the unified leader in 1206. His descendants continued to Mongol conquest and reached all over from east to west.
1. British Empire
Maximum Land Area: 35.5 million KM2
% of world land area: 23.84%
The largest empire in the history of the world consisted of colonies, protectorates, dominions, mandates and other territories. The British Empire remained the largest empire of the world for a hundred years and at its peak it ruled over almost 24% of the entire known world.
Britain had colonies stretching from the Indian subcontinent to Africa, the British Empire also conquered America and ruled over it until the civil war when America won its independence. The British Empire also managed to take over a lot of territories from its European neighbors like the French and Portuguese Empire.
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