5.5 Example 3: Empire

Example 3 

What is an Empire?

In order to introduce the idea of Empire to A level students, they need to find a definition of the term. 

The reason this may be controversial is the definitions of Empire which students bring to the classroom may be different.  Students need to appreciate that there is no real satisfactory definition of Empire that can be applied to every Empire.  One way to enable students to appreciate this through the following group work.  This has been successfully carried out as a Sixth Form Conference but it can be adapted for smaller groups.

What are the main characteristics of the Roman Empire?

Stage 1  :  In groups, students are given articles and references (e.g. from the BBC History website) about the Roman Empire and asked to use their knowledge and the articles to say what they think were the key elements which characterise an Empire.

Stage 2  :  The class come together and offer their elements with reasons for their choices.  As a group, they decide upon 6 or 7 points which epitomise an Empire (e.g. an Empire is a collection of states gained through acquisition by way of conquest)

Do these characteristics apply to other Empires?  

Stage 3  :  In groups, the students are given information about another Empire ( different one for each group).  These should be Empires about which students have no or little experience e.g. the Mongol Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Spanish Empire.  Students should be given time to work on this and produce a presentation on the Empire.  They should also then match their Empire to the criteria which were developed for the Roman Empire and see if it fits, prioritising these criteria.

Stage 4  :  The presentation.  Students should present their findings to the rest of the class.

What is an Empire?

Stage 5  :  Groups should be mixed and they should discuss the criteria which have been developed from the Roman Empire and prioritise the points.

Stage 6  :  Decide on the definition of Empire, if this is possible. 


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