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Unit 2: How Trade and Travel Changed the World

Lesson C: China — Mongol to Ming Rule

Activity 2: Defining "Empire"

Civilizations throughout history, such as the Mongol state, grew powerful enough to be termed "empires." But, what is an empire? What made Ancient Rome and Han civilizations eligible for the title of empire? How did the Mongols build an empire? More importantly, why did these empires eventually fall?

Many debate whether the United States deserves the title of empire. Living in the United States, many of us have become comfortable with our security in a complex world. In fact, the U.S. shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of empires from history.

Read the following characteristics of empires from history, and think about which apply to the U.S. When you are finished, discuss the questions that follow.

  • strong military force
  • control of foreign territory
  • diverse multiracial population
  • system of taxation
  • social institutions


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Classroom Activity - Characteristics of an Empire

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Directions: Prepare a response to the discussion question(s) below. Follow your teacher's directions to participate in your class discussion.

  • Which of the characteristics are the most important for maintaining an empire?
  • Which of the characteristics create the biggest challenges?
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Select the link to review the Discussion Scoring Tool (pdf).


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