Administration of Land-Based Empires

Unit 3: c. 1450-1750

Main Ideas:

  • Empires used bureaucracies & military elites to maintain centralized control of their populations

  • Rulers used religion & monumental architecture to legitimize their rule

  • Rulers used innovative tax-collecting systems to generate revenue for their empires

The Use of Bureaucracies

Bureaucracies & Military Elites Helped Empires Maintain Centralized Rule 

Key Ideas:

  • Many empires recruited bureaucracies to help run the government

    • The Ming & Qing Dynasties of China recruited a bureaucracy through a merit-based Confucian civil service exam

    • Through a program called devshirme, the Ottomans recruited Christian boys to its bureaucracy

    • The Mughals & Safavids also had a small bureaucracy


  • Most empires were run by a group of military professionals or employed a large military

    • The gunpowder empires (Ottomans, Mughals, Safavids) were military states, and the military generals had a high social status

    • In Tokugawa Shogunate (Japan), the samurai (warriors) held high status

    • European kingdoms had large armies

      • Russia (under Ivan IV) used freed serfs (called cossacks) in their army​

  • Kingdoms had large powerful bureaucracies so that they could have a more centralized rule over their population

Religion & Monumental Architecture

Rulers used Religion & Monumental Architecture to Legitimize their Rule 

Key Ideas:

  • Many rulers promoted religion or even encouraged certain religious practices meant to honor their rule in order to legitimize their rule

    • Gunpowder empires (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals) and the Songhai Empire promoted Islam to legitimize their rule

    • The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice to honor their rulers & gods

    • The Incas mummified their rulers after their death to honor them

    • European rulers used the idea of "divine right," claiming that god had allowed them to rule with absolute power​

  • Rulers commissioned art & monumental architecture to legitimize their rule: If someone sees the it, they'd realize that the person who built it must be in power

    • Mughals built the Taj Mahal & other mausoleums

    • Ottomans built Suleymaniye

    • Safavids built huge palaces

    • Qing Dynasty (China) created portraits of the emperors to put on display in their capital palace of Forbidden City

    • Europe had lots of palaces, such as the Palace of Versailles (France) & Schonbrunn Palace (Austrian Habsburgs)

An imperial portrait from the Qing Dynasty


The Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the Mughal Empire to show their glory and power


Tax Collection

Rulers Created Innovative Methods of Tax Collection to Raise Revenue for their Empires 

Key Ideas:

  • Rulers used tax-farming and innovative tax-collection methods to generate imperial revenue

    • Tax-farming: When ordinary people are employed by the state to collect taxes

    • Mughals employed Hindu farmers called zamindars to collect taxes through a tax-farming system

    • Ottomans also used tax-farming

    • Aztecs created special tribute lists for each of its neighboring regions (based on the specialities of each region)

    • Ming Dynasty (China) collected taxes in silver bullion