Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Empires in the sixteenth-century world

The opening lecture for this module on global connections in the early modern world focuses on the empires that formed the most significant political entity throughout the period from 1500 to 1800. At the outset of our ten-week programme, we focus on the empires that were in place in the sixteenth century: the major land empires, namely the Ming empire in China (1368-1644), the Mughal empire in India (1526-1857), the Ottoman empire in Turkey (1299–1922/1923), and the Safavid empire in Iran (1501-1722), as well as the Spanish empire in the Atlantic world, founded in 1492.

  • Why was empire such an enduring political form during the early modern period?
  • Is the term 'gunpowder empires' a useful descriptor for the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires?
  • How important is the division between land and maritime empires for understanding the early modern world?
  • Is there a qualitative difference between the European (Spanish and Portuguese) empires and the Asian empires?
Core readings:

Dardess, John W. Chapter 3 'Governance' in Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire. 2012.

Khan, Iqtidar Alam (March–April 2005). "Gunpowder and Empire: Indian Case". Social Scientist 33. 3/4 (2005): 54–65.

Woodworth CK. 'Ocean and Steppe: Early Modern World Empires'. Journal of Early Modern History 11.6 (2007): 501-518.

Further readings:

Brook, Timothy. The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. 2010. Internet resource.

Duindam, Jeroen F. J. Dynasties: A Global History of Power, 1300-1800. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Internet resource.

Elliott, John. Chapter in Lynn, Kimberly, and Erin K. Rowe, eds. The Early Modern Hispanic World: Transnational and Interdisciplinary Approaches. 2017.

Hodgson, Marshall G.S., The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

Khan, Iqtidar Alam (2004). Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Lane, Kris E. (2010). Colour of Paradise: The Emerald in the Age of Gunpowder Empires. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Matthee, Rudi, 'Firearms'. Encyclopædia Iranica.

McNeill, William H. (1993). "The Age of Gunpowder Empires, 1450-1800". In Adas, Michael. Islamic & European Expansion: The Forging of a Global Order. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Sun Laichen, 'Military Technology Transfers from Ming China and the Emergence of Northern Mainland Southeast Asia (c. 1390-1527)', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 34 (3): 495–517.

Wanli emperor

Wanli emperor (Ming China)

Wikimedia commons