When did Empire become the "E" Word?

May 2018
588
Michigan
#1
For man years, nations proudly declared themselves to be Empires: Russia, Britain, France, and nearly every major power within and without Europe took up the mantle of being an "Empire" at some point.

The question is, when did being an "Empire" become taboo? When you say the word "Empire" to your average layman, they probably think of Star Wars or a TV show about the recording industry. However, I would guess that Empire started becoming taboo during or soon after WWII or the Suez Crisis.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,133
Spain
#2
Well, till I know (maybe I am wrong)... . Russia was an Empire till 1917. France betwee 1804 to 1814/15 and from 1852 to 1870...Britain was never "Empire" save the Empire of India. Portugal and of course Netherland or Sweden never were Empires... Spain never named to itself "Empire" and never used the Word Spanish Empire in any official record (only in Wikipedia).
I think Empires were Germany (1871-1918), Austria (Well... from 1806 or we can count from HRE too), Turkey (Ottoman), Bulgaria...Maybe Serbia?
In West countries... in the 5 Big ones... I think they never named to themselves as Empires... save France....I think.
 
Dec 2017
262
Regnum Teutonicum
#3
Can I use this opportunity to ask, what exactly english speakers mean with the words Empire and Emperor? I don't get it.

Empire:
When I started learning english I thought that Empire in english could be simply translated to the german word Reich. Then I found out that the word Reich has no translation in english, the best comparable word would be realm. Then I saw that the official title of Germany in english until 1918 is German Empire and later is German Reich (but weirdly not during 1919-1933, even though the name Deutsches Reich dind't change between 1871 and 1938; so what how is the official title during this time for Germany?). So I thought it had something to to with a monarchy in power. Then I red people arguing that the USA is an Empire. The USA never was a monarchy, so the word Empire didn't need a monarch and additionally it seemed to have an aggressive conquest connotation, what the word Reich doesn't have. So maybe the best translation would be Weltreich - an entity that spans a big part of the (known) world and tries to dominate the world or at least be the most powerful power in the world? So how do you exactly understand the word "Empire"?

Emperor:
In german it is essentially like that: the Kaiser (Emperor (?)) is the König (King) of the Könige (King of the Kings), like the König is the Herzog (duke) of the Herzöge (Duke of the Dukes), the Herzog is the Landgraf (Landgrave) of the Landgrafen (Landgrave of the Landgraves), the Landgraf is the Fürst (Princeps) of the Fürsten (Princeps of the Princeps), the Fürst is the Graf (Count) of the Grafen (Count of the Counts), the Graf is the Freiherr (Baron) of the Freiherren (Baron of the Barons) and the Freiherr is the Edler (Noble(?)) of the Edle (Nobel of the Nobles).
So it blew my mind, when I red somewhere on this forum, that someone hadn't thought of the Emperor as the King of the Kings. In Kaiser that is the essence of the title, a Kaiser has kings under him or is the king himself of those kingdoms, so the Empire consists of at least two kingdoms like the kingdom consists of at least two duchies. It was for me like saying "I never thought as of a book as something transmitting information (which I think is its essence). So what does Emperor exactly mean in in english?
 
Mar 2016
736
Australia
#4
I recall reading that in Britain they stopped officially referring to the British Empire as such in the 1920s or around then, and used the term 'British Commonwealth' instead, as a sort of euphemism that sounded less imperial and more democratic, at least in regards to the (White) Dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. I think the politicians were worried about alienating the premiers of the Dominions by implying they were subservient to Britain. This was especially true after the horrors of WW1, where national consciousnesses were dramatically on the rise among the various parts of the empire. By WW2 it was only referred to as "empire" by old-school sorts like Churchill. It had almost become politically incorrect to refer to it in such terms, especially after WW2 when imperialism and subjugation of peoples was strongly out of fashion and unpopular.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,603
Australia
#6
The official name "Commonwealth of Australia" was met with dismay and suspicion in Britain in 1901 as it seemed to imply republicanism. Westminster would have preferred "Dominion" as was the case in Canada and New Zealand.
 
Mar 2016
736
Australia
#7
The official name "Commonwealth of Australia" was met with dismay and suspicion in Britain in 1901 as it seemed to imply republicanism. Westminster would have preferred "Dominion" as was the case in Canada and New Zealand.
Indeed, we've always had an unfortunate proclivity towards republicanism over monarchism. No surprise that it was Australia that tried to vote out the monarchy.
 
Jan 2017
1,159
Durham
#8
For man years, nations proudly declared themselves to be Empires: Russia, Britain, France, and nearly every major power within and without Europe took up the mantle of being an "Empire" at some point.

The question is, when did being an "Empire" become taboo? When you say the word "Empire" to your average layman, they probably think of Star Wars or a TV show about the recording industry. However, I would guess that Empire started becoming taboo during or soon after WWII or the Suez Crisis.
I think your own country was the driving force behind the rejection of Imperialism.

My personal opinion is that the United States today is an empire: different form, but same objective ultimately.

But, the United States for much of her history wasn't like that, and held ideals that were anti-Imperialism and aimed to enforce that concept. Upon holding more sway, the US made it difficult for empires to survive - WW1 - and afterwards with the British Empire.

That said, the United States had imperial ventures of her own around the 1890s, so it may seem difficult to reconcile. I think the answer is that while the US government held imperialist designs, it was a vote winner for US governments to be seen to break up empires because the US people were largely anti-imperialist (including with regard to the actions of their own government).
 
Mar 2018
591
UK
#9
Can I use this opportunity to ask, what exactly english speakers mean with the words Empire and Emperor? I don't get it.

Empire:
When I started learning english I thought that Empire in english could be simply translated to the german word Reich. Then I found out that the word Reich has no translation in english, the best comparable word would be realm. Then I saw that the official title of Germany in english until 1918 is German Empire and later is German Reich (but weirdly not during 1919-1933, even though the name Deutsches Reich dind't change between 1871 and 1938; so what how is the official title during this time for Germany?). So I thought it had something to to with a monarchy in power. Then I red people arguing that the USA is an Empire. The USA never was a monarchy, so the word Empire didn't need a monarch and additionally it seemed to have an aggressive conquest connotation, what the word Reich doesn't have. So maybe the best translation would be Weltreich - an entity that spans a big part of the (known) world and tries to dominate the world or at least be the most powerful power in the world? So how do you exactly understand the word "Empire"?

Emperor:
In german it is essentially like that: the Kaiser (Emperor (?)) is the König (King) of the Könige (King of the Kings), like the König is the Herzog (duke) of the Herzöge (Duke of the Dukes), the Herzog is the Landgraf (Landgrave) of the Landgrafen (Landgrave of the Landgraves), the Landgraf is the Fürst (Princeps) of the Fürsten (Princeps of the Princeps), the Fürst is the Graf (Count) of the Grafen (Count of the Counts), the Graf is the Freiherr (Baron) of the Freiherren (Baron of the Barons) and the Freiherr is the Edler (Noble(?)) of the Edle (Nobel of the Nobles).
So it blew my mind, when I red somewhere on this forum, that someone hadn't thought of the Emperor as the King of the Kings. In Kaiser that is the essence of the title, a Kaiser has kings under him or is the king himself of those kingdoms, so the Empire consists of at least two kingdoms like the kingdom consists of at least two duchies. It was for me like saying "I never thought as of a book as something transmitting information (which I think is its essence). So what does Emperor exactly mean in in english?
Reich and Empire are fairly good translations, but not perfect. In essence, Empire has two different definitions in English:
1) A kingdom, but bigger/more prestigious
2) A state which rules over multiple national/cultural groups
Both definitions are rather vague. Note that Reich is almost the *opposite* to definition 2): the German Reich is after all defined by being a single national group! However, in the sense that the whole of the German cultural world put together is greater than an ordinary kingdom, it is an empire under definition 1). An Emperor is the title given to a monarch who rules an Empire. I would definitely translate Konig as King and Kaiser as Emperor.

It's worth noting that definition 1) isn't really used in Europe until the late Renaissance. Before then, the only Empires was the Roman and then the HRE and Byzantine Empires. The title was also used as a translation for foreign titles, so the Persian King-of-Kings would be an Emperor, and the same thing for China and many others. But then later on everyone calls themselves an Empire: Napoleon is a clear example of someone who used the title without any claim of founding a new Rome (although he still got the Pope to do it for tradition). Or the Austrians after the HRE was dissolved. By 1900 everyone was en Empire, even relatively weak states like Mexico claimed the title; it just become a more prestigious version of Kingdom. In that sense Emperor is not King-of-Kings. The Romans never had vassal kings (unless you count client states, but that was generally a one-generation stop gap to annexation). The French and British Empires never had vassal kings either.
 

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