In today’s world predominated by democracy, one might nevertheless say that the USA is the “Empire” that rules the world. There are arguments for and against such a statement, but one cannot argue with the fact that several nations have indeed ruled the world as they knew it throughout history.
The British Empire
The first on the list is coincidentally the largest and arguably one of the most influential empires of all time. It owned almost a quarter of the entire world and ruled over 500 million people. However, the World War I signified the beginning of the end for the British Empire and the World War II eventually led to a close. The English language is the world’s most spoken language even today.
The French Empire
The second French Colonial Empire began with the conquest of Algiers in 1837 and lasted until the 1960s, ruling over 110 million of people. Tensions ran high with the British Empire during this time (like the Second Hundred Years’ War tells us), but the French Empire managed to outlast it by a couple of decades.
The Mongolian Empire
Territory-wise, the Mongolian Empire was one of the largest the world has ever seen, ruling over 16% of the earth’s landmass and around 210 million people. Young Genghis Khan swore to “bring the world to his feet” and he did, in a way. However, the Black Death and Mongol’s lack of political experience eventually led to its annexation by the Russian Empire in the 18th century.
The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire, or the Achaemenid Empire, was the predecessor of the Roman Empire. It united Central Asia and as a result, covered over 5% of the world’s territory – the largest empire of the ancient world that spanned over Asia, Africa and Europe, and as a result, the most diverse.
The Portuguese Empire
The first global empire in history, the Portuguese Empire was also the longest-lived European empire. It began in 1415 and ended in 1999 when Macau was returned to China. It covered about 7% of the landmass, including one of the biggest countries in the world – Brazil.
The Qing Dynasty
Founded in the 17th century when the Chinese defeated the Mongols, the last dynasty of China presided over 430 million people in 1850 and ruled nearly 10% of the world’s landmass for over three centuries until the Republic of China took over.
The Roman Empire
How could what is arguably the most influential civilization of the world not make it onto this list? The Romans have literally ruled the world as they knew it for over 2,000 years! In fact, it can be argued that a lot of what’s left behind by the Romans still, to an extent, rules the Western world to this day – the Roman law, for instance, and the Catholic Church. All roads do indeed seem to lead to Rome…
The Russian Empire
Of course, the biggest country in the world has made it onto this list. Russian Empire was the last absolute monarchy in Europe, and, until the Revolution in 1917, it was home to over 15% of the earth’s landmass and almost 180 million people. For comparison, today’s population of Russia is 150 million people.
The Spanish Empire
The legendary Spanish Empire began around the time Columbus discovered America and lasted until the end of the 20th century. Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world, thanks to the Empire’s influence. It ruled over 13% of the world’s land and almost 70 million people.
The Umayyad Caliphate
The Umayyad Caliphate’s population was over 62 million people at one point – over 30% of the world’s population. Damascus was the capital of the Caliphate, and this particular empire was the largest Arab-Muslim state in history, covering over 8% of the world’s land mass.