Throughout history, some countries covered one-fifth of the world. At the same time, those countries ruled over hundreds of millions of people. Some lasted longer than a thousand years. At some point in their existence, they all seemed invincible, but in the end, they fell apart. The era of great empires ended with the World World War when world powers replaced colonization and conquest with geopolitical and economic influence.
Britain was the largest country in history and the biggest world power ever. By 1922, the British Empire had 458 million inhabitants, which was a fifth of the world’s population, and covered more than 33 million km square, or a quarter of the Earth’s globe. As a result, the English language and British culture spread around the world.
British colonies were located in Africa and North America, and India and all of Australia and New Zealand were British colonies. The period between 1945 to 1997 was the time when the British Empire began to decline and was eventually overpowered. By the end of the 20th century, the British Empire had lost control over almost all of its territories. All these territories gained freedom and were considered separate nations.
At the height of its power, the Mongol Empire occupied the most competitive territory in history. Initially governed under the instructions of Genghis Khan, the empire lasted from 1206 to 1368. It occupied most of the area of Eurasia at the time, thanks to advanced weapons and massive hordes of nomadic warriors. The empire was established in 1206 when Temujin, the son of a Mongol chieftain, took power and changed his name to Genghis Khan. As a very young warrior, he managed to defeat the most powerful Mongolian leader and incite discontent among the aristocratic class of his people. Thanks to constant adaptation during the period of aggressive expansion, which lasted 162 years, the empire spread over about 20 million square km.
Despite its warlike reputation, the Mongol Empire is known for a period of peace and stability in trade and safe travel. Mongolian peace lasted from 1279 until the end of the empire. Although the Mongol Empire was known for the terror it spread and the destruction of its enemies, it left behind a significant influence through the “Silk Road” and its history of trade.
The Russian Empire was created when Peter the Great, after the end of the Great Northern War (in 1721), took the title of emperor and transformed the Russian Empire into the Russian Empire. Peter the Great laid the foundation for the creation of the modern Russian state. With an area of 23.83 million square meters, this empire represented the largest Orthodox state in the world and the universal centre of Orthodox culture. We count Russia among the great European powers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The empire came to an end after the October Revolution of 1917, i.e. the later creation of the USSR.
The Qing Dynasty, sometimes called the Manchurian Dynasty, was the last Chinese imperial dynasty. Its founder, a Manchurian nobleman and vassal of the Chinese emperors from the Ming dynasty who declared himself emperor. This dynasty ruled from 1644 to 1911. In total, it produced 12 emperors, and the number of inhabitants at the end of the 18th century reached 300 million. This dynasty lasted 268 years. The Qing dynasty was at its most powerful in 1790 when it controlled a territory of 14.7 million square km. The overthrow of the Qing dynasty in the Sinhai Revolution ended the feudal system that had lasted in China for more than 2,000 years.
The Umayyad caliphate is the second of the four great Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. This caliphate is focused on the Umayyad dynasty, originally from Mecca. The Umayyad family first came to power under the third caliph Osman ibn Afan (around 644-656). Damascus was their capital, from where they continued their conquests. Most of the caliphs lived wastefully, they introduced a personal guard and intelligence services and founded a fleet. At the height of its power, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 13.4 million square meters.
The Spanish Empire represented one of the first global empires. It covered an area of 19.94 million square meters. It reached its political and economic peak during the reign of the Spanish Habsburgs, during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, becoming the first superpower of its era and is responsible for the spread of Catholicism in America and Asia. The empire was governed by the Spanish crown and included territories and colonies in Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Outside of Europe, the empire included the Greater Antilles, half of South America, most of Central America and a significant part of North America, and numerous archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines.