Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Daniel I. O'Neill
The English word empire and its cognates are derived from the Latin word imperium , whose literal meaning is supreme power or command. Historically, the term has been closely allied with sovereignty, particularly the power of the state to apply its laws by force. From very early on, however, empire also came to connote military, legal, and economic control over large swaths of territory encompassing different political and cultural communities. A number of empires have fit this twofold definition, including those of Persia and the ancient Near East, Asia (particularly Chinese and Mongol), India, and Africa, as well as the various Muslim empires and those of the early Americas. Nevertheless, when political theorists discuss the topic of empire, they are almost always referring to Western empires, and that will be the approach taken in this entry. Despite its obvious limitations, a focus on the West is appropriate if we want ...