Empire that ruled the largest % of world population

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,679
Mongols also controlled a huge number of depopulated regions and their wars in China weren't so clean though not quite as bad as a couple of internal Chinese civil wars.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
The Persian empire at it's height was said to have ruled around 44% of the world population in 480 BC, skip ahead to Alexander's conquest in 323 BC and this would imply he ruled close to half the world's population if the population % of the region had not changed. Is there any other ruler/empire that comes close to this percentage?
The figure 44% came from wikipedia originally, which had been taken down and the figure wasn't remotely academical. If one reads the citations, figures were taken from data as unreliable as magazines and generic history books and mixed with estimates given by other sources rather than from a single coherent professional demographic estimates.

Achaemenid Persia's population has only two professional academic estimations; a low count of only 17 million given by McEvdy and Jones and a high count of around 30-35 million (See Morris and Scheidel, The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium);

https://books.google.fr/books?id=6vnkts2rOJUC&pg=PT96&lpg=PT96&dq=achaemenid+empire+size+estimates&source=bl&ots=lByXEoUUNj&sig=ordJ8C7zNHfMp3tEA7sJBomQxcg&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=achaemenid empire size estimates&f=false

McEvdy and Jones gave the world population in 500 BC a conservative figure of 100 million (underestimating both the population of India and China as well), which implies the Persian Empire had just over 1/6 of the world's population.
If we take the absolute high count of 35 million, the figure of 100 million given by McEvdy and Jones would have to increase to 118 million at the very least because of the increase in Persian Empire's population from 17 to 35 million. This would still make the Achaemenid share of world population to be below 1/3 that of the world.

The population of India and China are most likely higher than those given by McEvdy and Jones. They gave India a population of below 30 million before the Mauryan period, whereas Maddison gave 55 million and Biraben gave 70 million. The population of China has also been underestimated as Ge Jianxiong's newest studies over a decade ago pointed out; with a population closer to 45 million than 30 million in 300 BC. A more realistic estimate of the world population in 500 BC is probably 130-150 million. If we accept the high account, then Achaemenid Persia had around just over 1/4 to around 1/5 of the world's population.
 
Apr 2017
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U.S.A.
The population of India and China are most likely higher than those given by McEvdy and Jones. They gave India a population of below 30 million before the Mauryan period, whereas Maddison gave 55 million and Biraben gave 70 million. The population of China has also been underestimated as Ge Jianxiong's newest studies over a decade ago pointed out; with a population closer to 45 million than 30 million in 300 BC. A more realistic estimate of the world population in 500 BC is probably 130-150 million. If we accept the high account, then Achaemenid Persia had around just over 1/4 to around 1/5 of the world's population.
Would Persia still be the largest ruler of world population by these statistics?
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
Would Persia still be the largest ruler of world population by these statistics?
No, even at over 1/4, it barely fringes the top 10, as there were plenty of Empires that had over 1/4 of the world's population, most of them being empires that ruled China or India, including the Mongol and British Empires.

The Qing probably ruled the largest percentage of the world's population in history and we have relatively reliable statistics for that too. According to the estimates of Zhongguo renkou tongshi volume 6 written by Cao Shuji, China during the Qing had around 340 million in 1800, giving it over 36% of the entire world's population, to this we must add Inner Asia and perhaps the vassal of Korea which would add another 20 million people to the Empire giving the Qing 38-39% of the world's population.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,939
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
No, even at over 1/4, it barely fringes the top 10, as there were plenty of Empires that had over 1/4 of the world's population, most of them being empires that ruled China or India, including the Mongol and British Empires.

The Qing probably ruled the largest percentage of the world's population in history and we have relatively reliable statistics for that too. According to the estimates of Zhongguo renkou tongshi volume 6 written by Cao Shuji, China during the Qing had around 340 million in 1800, giving it over 36% of the entire world's population, to this we must add Inner Asia and perhaps the vassal of Korea which would add another 20 million people to the Empire giving the Qing 38-39% of the world's population.
So maybe you should list the empires ruling the largest proportion of the world's population in your opinion, since you seem to have more up to date information.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
So maybe you should list the empires ruling the largest proportion of the world's population in your opinion, since you seem to have more up to date information.

Here is a list given by Ge Jianxiong's Zhongguorenkoushi volume 1. The rough figures for Chinese population in history are as follows:


Qing (340/940 million), 36% not including area outside of China

Ming (190 million / 580 million), 33%

Song era (130 million out of 320 million), 41%. The Song would have around 120 million people out of that, the rest of China being ruled by the Liao and Xia, so around 38%.

Tang (75-80 million out of 210 million) 36-38%, not including possession outside of China.

Ge notes however that both the Tang and Song population world figures needs to be readjusted because he used estimates given by demographic historians like Biraben who gave a more conservative figure for Chinese population (probably using the 53 million census figure for Tang). Revised, this would imply that the world during Tang times would be around 75-80 million/232-237 million. The Tang also ruled large parts of Inner Asia (around 3-4 million) and Yunnan (3 million people), which was not shown in the census or included in his estimates. A conservative estimate would give it roughly 85 million people out of 235 million, or roughly 36%.

The Song has 120 million, which was 20 million greater than the conventional 100 million given. Assuming the world population would increase to 340 million, the Song would have had 120 million/340 million or roughly 35%.


In addition, the Sui had around 60 million people out of 210 million in 600 AD, or roughly 29%.

The Han likewise had around 65 million people (Ge Jianxiong) out of 230 million (Maddison) in 1 AD, adding over a 1 million people for its Inner Asian possessions, the Han had around around 29%.

The Roman Empire was a rough contemporary of the Han, the most exhaustive estimate given for Roman population to date are those of Frier. According to Walter Scheidel:
"Back in 1886, Beloch linked his estimate of some 6 million people in Augustan Italy to one of 54 million in the Roman empire as a whole. With some modifications, this (highly conjectural) reconstruction was most recently accepted by Bruce Frier, who posited populations of 7 million for Italy and 45.5 million for the empire in 14 CE, and of 8.6 million and 61.4 million, respectively, in 164 CE."
This is the 2nd century AD and the world population probably increased slightly, so assume the world population was around 240 million, the Roman Empire would have had around 26% of the world's population.


As for the population of the Mongol Empire, Biraben estimates that it would be 132,600,000 out of a global total of 442,000,000 or just under 30% of the world population at the turn of the 14th century (J.N. Biraben: “Essai sur l’évolution du nombre des hommes”, Population, 34, 1979, 16.)
This is also the entire Mongol Empire we are talking about, although formally considered one polity, it was in reality broken down into 5 de-facto independent Khanates.


The British Empire's population in 1922 was 458 million, in a world population of just over 1.8 billion or around 25.5% of the world's population.


If we are to include modern polities as well, then the Republic of China also had over a quarter of the world's population.


Other contenders include Qin, Mauryan, Gupta, and Mughal Empires, all of which probably had 1/5- over 1/4 of the world's population depending on the estimate. However, since estimates for populations are not that reliable in these periods, I did not dwell on them.

A ranking would produce the following (approximations):

1) Qing (1800): 38-39%
2) Tang (750): 36%
3) Song (1100): 35%
4) Ming (1600): 33%
5) Mongol Empire (1300): 29-30%
6) Han (1 CE): 29%
7) Sui (600): 29%
8) Republic of China (1915): 27%
9) Roman Empire (160): 26%
10) British Empire (1922): 25.5%

I should also note that there are "high counts" given for the Roman Empire at over 100 million, although the high count is losing support as Scheidel noted, but even if we take the high count, the world population tends to also need to be readjusted to around 300 million, which means the Roman Empire still wouldn't have much over 1/3 that of the world's population and most likely still lower than the Qing.

There are also high counts for the Tang (as high as 90 million) and low estimates for the Ming (150 million), along with general discrepancies for the other pre-modern figures, but I'm only gonna take the representative estimates here.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,035
Italy, Lago Maggiore
As if we have reliable numbers for the older empires.
And reliable numbers of the world population.

It's clear that we have to deal with estimates for all the figures we consider.

Regarding the British Empire [being an entity of the industrialized world, so quite recent] we can have more accurate numbers [but not totally certain]. Anyway the level of approximation is acceptable:

In 1913 the Empire counted more than 412,000,000 inhabitants which was around the 23% of the world population.

When we go backwards in time the problem of lack of accuracy increases. For example, when we read that the Achaemenid Empire ruled over 44% of the world population [49.4 millions with a world population of 112.4 millions] I honstly wonder who can be so accurate ... and about the estimate of the world population ... how can they estimate Africa, America, Australia [but also some areas of Asia ...]?
 
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heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
Here is a list of world population estimates by scholars:

https://books.google.com/books?id=I242EL00ieAC&pg=PA230&lpg=PA230&dq=world+population+estimates+biraben&source=bl&ots=Irp4cXTvj9&sig=NjJWexh3MzdJdv70evs5bsqQWYc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSg_Tvw63TAhUT0WMKHbxNCwwQ6AEIOzAD#v=onepage&q=world population estimates biraben&f=false

There are still huge discrepancies in estimate for the population in 1 AD, ranging from as low as 168 million to as high as 297 million, but estimates for the middle ages seem to converge more with the discrepancy being no more than 20%, ranging from 253-310 million in 1000. However, this could just be mutual influence of estimate; population before the early modern era outside of China and a few small polities lacks empire wide census.


Furthermore, the population in places like Australia and much of Africa are negligible before the modern period, even America probably didn't have populous empires until the late middle ages and wouldn't contribute significantly to the overall estimate.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,035
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Here is a list of world population estimates by scholars:

https://books.google.com/books?id=I242EL00ieAC&pg=PA230&lpg=PA230&dq=world+population+estimates+biraben&source=bl&ots=Irp4cXTvj9&sig=NjJWexh3MzdJdv70evs5bsqQWYc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSg_Tvw63TAhUT0WMKHbxNCwwQ6AEIOzAD#v=onepage&q=world population estimates biraben&f=false

There are still huge discrepancies in estimate for the population in 1 AD, ranging from as low as 168 million to as high as 297 million, but estimates for the middle ages seem to converge more with the discrepancy being no more than 20%, ranging from 253-310 million in 1000. However, this could just be mutual influence of estimate; population before the early modern era outside of China and a few small polities lacks empire wide census.


Furthermore, the population in places like Australia and much of Africa are negligible before the modern period, even America probably didn't have populous empires until the late middle ages and wouldn't contribute significantly to the overall estimate.
And as noted by others, also the estimates of the population of the ancient Empires vary a lot [I mean academic estimates].

These two aspects make similar comparisons not that meaningful. As usual, to make a chart, we need the certainty of a good level of approximation. And statistically, when it comes the time to make the chart, a difference of just a 10% in the estimates of the world population can change the position of this or that Empire. Just consider the very different estimates about world population in 1st century CE and the estimates about the Roman Empire …
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,676
Cornwall
You're wrong about Alexander. He was the ruler of a small kingdom and the protector of Greece. He then invaded Persia and usurped the throne of the King of Kings.

But the Persian Achaemenid Empire was smaller in Alexander's time than when it was largest, and thus didn't rule as high a proportion of the world's population. Also civilization was spreading and lands outside the Persian empire were becoming more densely populated.

Note that the Wikipedia list of largest empires lists the Achaemenid Empire in 500 BC at 5.5 million square kilometers or 2.12 million square miles, 3.69 percent of the world land area and the Macedonian Empire in 323 BC as 5.3 million square kilometers or 2.01 million square miles or 3.49 percent of the world land area.

So even though Alexander usurped the throne of a ready made empire and then spent years establishing control of many of its far flung provinces, he still didn't rule all the lands ruled by the Achaemenid Empire at its height.

Thus Alexander should have ruled over a smaller percentage of the world's population than Darius I the Great.
Unusual use of the word 'usurp'. That's normally internal.

The Romans must have 'usurped' many thrones then? Or did they just conquer them?