Creation of New States: c. 600 CE - c. 1450

AP Concept: 3.2 Continuity and Innovation in State Forms and Their Interactions
Key Concepts
  • Empires collapsed and new states adapted their forms to their circumstances
Religious Empires
  • Several empires that emerged during this period were centered around religion. These empires featured leaders who were both political and religious
  • Islamic caliphates: First the Umayyad Caliphate (661 - 750) and then the Abbasid Caliphate (750 - 1517) spread Islamic rule through North Africa, West Asia, Spain, and the Middle East by military conquest
  • The Umayyad Caliphate established a bureaucratic government where local rulers governed conquered areas, and all cultures were tolerated as long as they obeyed the rules of Islam
  • Later rulers maintained a sense of unification through Islam, as the term Dar al-Islam (“all under Islam”) signifies; any Muslim traveler would be welcomed in the Islamic empire, no matter his origin
  • The Byzantine Empire emerged as a continuation of the eastern Roman Empire, which had been divided from the western portion in 375 CE
  • The empire featured a strong central government led by a hereditary monarch, who was also considered the head of the Church and a friend and imitator of Christ
  • The empire, which lasted until 1453, primarily spoke Greek and had a strong trade system
  • The Byzantine church split from the western, Roman church in 1066, thus establishing the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church
Decentralized States
  • Western Europe and Japan were mainly decentralized during this period, featuring weak central rulers and/or powerful local leaders
  • Western Europe was able to briefly unite under Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire (800 - 888), but ultimately Europe developed a feudal system, where land was given to vassals in exchange for military service. The Church was the only unifying force during this period
  • Most infected people died within days, and the world population decreased drastically
  • Peasants evolved into serfs who were tied to their land, and powerful, wealthy lords owned their labor and fought for control with private armies
  • By the 1400s, European states developed into powerful monarchies, and kings in England and France asserted control over feudal lords
  • Japan attempted to copy China's centralized empire, but local clans maintained power, and instead a weak, hereditary monarchy developed
  • While emperors were symbolically in power, the true leadership of Japan lay in the hands of the shogun, or military general, who divided the land into units controlled by local military leaders. This was a Japanese form of feudalism
  • Several civilizations in the Americas were agricultural and decentralized, such as the Maya (Mexico, 300 - 900), who had independent city-states linked by trade, and the Aztec (1400 - 1521), who controlled independent city-states through tribute
Trade-Based Empires
  • West African kingdoms developed through trans-Saharan trade, as Muslim and North African merchants established commerce with the region
  • Ghana (c. 500 - 1200) grew into a powerful commercial center as it controlled trade in gold from the south, and received ivory, salt, slaves, horses, and cloth from other regions
  • Around 900, the kings converted to Islam, which improved relations and trade with Muslim merchants
  • Mali (1235 - c. 1450) honored Islam and controlled all trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt, which gave emperors major power in the region
  • East African kingdoms became powerful through Indian Ocean trade, as Arabic merchants created Swahili city-states (the language Swahili was a blend of Bantu and Arabic)
  • Zimbabwe (1200s) emerged as a powerful kingdom based on Islam and trade
Centralized Empires
  • Centralized empires continued to exist in China and the Americas, and bore many similarities to earlier states
  • Tang dynasty (China, 618 - 907) focused on scholars, and a new form of Confucianism (Neo-Confucianism) emerged, which combined Buddhist and Confucian ideas
  • Song dynasty (China, 960 - 1279) established a tribute system, where local nomads were paid with tributes to remain peaceful
  • Inca (South America, c. 1400 - 1540) conquered a 9,000-mile stretch of land with a capital at Cuzco. A king ruled the empire, with a powerful class of nobles and an agricultural economy

Related Links:
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AP World History
AP World History Notes
Contact between Empires: c. 600 CE - c. 1450