Overview of All Land-Based Empires (Outside Europe)

Unit 3: c. 1450-1750

Ottoman Empire


Key Ideas:

  • Located in the Middle East, capital at Istanbul (Turkey)

    • Controlled Turkey and most of the Middle East at its height

  • Believed in Sunni Islam

  • Recruited soldiers & administrators by enslaving Christian boys through a program called devshirme

  • Sultan Suleyman I (r. 1520-1566) was the "great" emperor: Conquered lots of territory & oversaw flourishing arts & literature

Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566)


Suleymaniye mosque, a representation of monumental architecture meant to legitimize the rule of the Ottoman Sultan


Safavid Empire


Key Ideas:

  • Located in Persia

    • Capital at Tabriz then at Isfahan

  • Believed in Shi'a Islam

  • Had a strong military run by military elites called qizilbash

  • Shah Abbas (r. 1588-1629) was the "great" emperor who consolidated Safavid power & oversaw construction of large palaces

Mughal Empire


Key Ideas:

  • Located in India

    • Capital kept moving around: Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Delhi, Lahore​

  • Believed in Islam

    • Made accommodations for its Hindu-majority population: Emperor Akbar abolished the jizya, a special tax that all non-Muslims had to pay, but Emperor Aurangzeb reinstated it

  • Had Hindu tax farmers called zamindars

  • Had 6 Great emperors before the empire's decline

    • Babur (founder), Humayun, Akbar (the "great" Mughal emperor), Jahangir, Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal), Aurangzeb (who reinstated the jizya)

Akbar the Great, the greatest Mughal emperor


The Red Fort, a Mughal fort built by Shah Jahan. It represents monumental architecture meant to legitimize one's rule


Ming Dynasty


Key Ideas:

  • Sought to remain isolationist from European contact to protect Chinese culture from foreign influence

    • Restricted the activities of foreign merchants

  • Had a declining economy

    • Changed paper money to silver bullion, but that largely failed​

    • Many pirates raided the city

  • Fell in 1644 to the Manchus (from northern China, near China-Korea border)

    • Manchus came to help Ming Dynasty quell a peasant rebellion, but they instead took power after quelling the rebellion

Qing Dynasty


Key Ideas:

  • Founded by Manchus, natives of Manchuria (northern China, near China-Korea border)

    • Forbade cultural contact between ethnic Chinese & Manchus

  • Even though Manchus were foreigners, they hired Chinese to run the government through the Confucian civil service exam

  • Had a strong military that conquered lots of territory

    • Emperors Kangxi & Qianlong conquered most of Central Asia

  • Very isolationist from European influence

    • Banned Christianity in 1724

    • Restricted trade to just a few cities (until foreigners started carving spheres of influence in 1800s, more on this in Unit 6)

Tokugawa Shogunate


Key Ideas:

  • Located in Japan

    • Capital at Edo (Tokyo)

  • Originally had a feudal structure

    • Emperor at the top; Provincial rulers (daimyo) below them, warriors (samurai) below them, and peasants at the bottom

  • VERY strict in isolationism to protect their Japanese culture

    • Restricted Christianity

    • Restricted Japanese from traveling abroad

    • Restricted foreigners from trading there

    • Only the Dutch could come at the port of Nagasaki, where the Dutch taught many things to the Japanese & corrected their textbooks with correct info

Songhai Empire


Key Ideas:

  • Located in West Africa

    • Previously controlled by Mali Empire

    • Sunni Ali established autonomy of Songhai Empire in 1494

    • Capital at Gao

  • Profited from trade in West Africa & Niger River Valley

    • Had a navy patrol the Niger River

  • Promoted Islam

  • Askia the Great (1493-1528) was the "great" emperor who conquered more territory & gained more influence in West Africa

  • Fell in Battle of Tondibi (1591) against Moroccans as the Moroccans were armed with guns (given by the Europeans)