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Amy Chua’s “Day of Empire” Essay

Compare and contrast “Pax Romana”, “The Great Mongol Peace”, “Pax Britannica”, and “Pax Americana”.

In studying Amy Chua’s “Day of Empire”, one finds a lot more similarities than differences shared among the great empires. Tolerance is a common theme that repeats itself over and over, and along with assimilation, unity, and acceptance, it is the glue that holds together these hyperpowers. But the path to the golden times of peace and glory and the strategic use of tolerance differs in each empire, and within the empire itself, from ruler to ruler. The Roman Empire enjoyed far more longevity than the Mongolian, British and American empires combined; two millennia[1] to be exact. Also, another unique feature of the Roman Empire was the idea of Rome, which was bigger than the empire itself, and an ambitious vision shared by most Roman Emperors. But let’s analyze the commonalities and differences among these four empires through three different lenses: political, economic and social.

Political Analysis

Rome learned from the history of ancient Greece that bigotry and ethnic divisions often led to war, and to avoid the tragic fate of its predecessor, Rome set a new standard for tolerance toward the foreign members of its empire, a strategy which transcended into the political system. There was an equal representation from “the savage and barbarous” nations to participate into the political process and share in the power and prestige of Rome[2], as long as these men were free Roman citizens and embraced the Roman values . Strategically, this was the most secure method of enlarging the empire. However, there were limits to this famed tolerance: women could not vote, hold office or wear the toga. During the Pax Romana, Trajan was the first ruler to implement a social legislation, creating a money lending program to the farmers, with the interest going to poor children[3]. Also, a unique feature of the Pax Romana was the use of diplomacy and threat of force to deter enemies, a philosophy that started with Antoninus Pius, and continued with the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius.

The political strategy under Pax Mongolica is similar with the Pax Romana, as it started out through carefully military expansion under Genghis Khan. But the Mongols stand out in history as ruthless fighters, who annexed territory one victory at a time, after killing the tribal leaders, and consolidating the remaining tribe members among their own members. In addition to consolidation, the Mongol army was re-arranged in such a way that each battalion was a mix of interethnic fighters, that were forced to defend each other as brothers. This intertribal, inter-ethnic system came to represent the makeup of the Mongol society as a whole. Unlike the Roman Empire, that throned leaders based on kinship, Temujin selected his closes advisors and army generals based on merit, talent and loyalty. Strategically, the Mongolian army was very different from the other armies as well; it consisted only on horsemen. This ensured mobility for the army and a quicker chance to strike. In addition, the Mongol army as the first one to use heavy technology and improve its warfare machine, by using the human capital of the annexed territories to their advantage.

Even though the Mongol leaders were illiterate, they quickly came to value the power of science and knowledge, and promoted the Chinese engineers to design break-through arsenal for the army[4].At the height of its glory, the Pax Mongolica was by far the most populous nation in the world, with an estimated 110 to 120 million people[5] around the year 1276, under Khubilai’s rule. His style of government had a cosmopolitan approach; many government posts were shared by two people: a Chinese official and a foreigner, asked to govern together. In this aspect, this was very similar to the equal representation the Roman citizens enjoyed in their local governments. During Pax Britannica, the British Empire used tolerance as purely strategic calculation. The idea of being British transcended national and ethnic boundaries. At home, Great Britian had incorporated three different national identities as their own: English, Welsh and Scots. In addition, the Brits used to their advantage the financial support of the Sephardic Jews and Huguenots.

However, outside its borders, Britain was not always tolerant . Their failure to include Ireland in the Empire, due to the two nations’ religious differences, has in retrospect been a great political loss. Similarly, the British always maintained an air of superiority toward the colonial populations they conquered, defining themselves as “white” and “civilized”[6]. This was mostly evident in their relationship with India, the jewel of the empire. Finally, the American system had three crucial features that were present in all the above-mentioned empires, which attracted people from diverse backgrounds: religious pluralism, a democratic system of government and a free market approach. As a result, the United States became at the time the world’s leading destination for newcomers, favored by religious prosecuted people and poor immigrants looking for economic opportunities. However, during the nineteenth century, America’s tolerance was rather selective.

Natives were not sharing in the benefits of this strategic tolerance, and neither were women, who were completely excluded from any political and economic participation. In addition, slavery was in full swing for most of the century, until 1865 when it became abolished, and even then, racism would continue to be part of the American life until the civil movement of the 1960s. Despite America’s success as a regional power during this time, the moment to shine in the global arena and emerge as a global hegemon did not occur until the end of World War II.

However, the time of peace would be short-lived, as the looming Cold War would polarize the power between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The American dominance would regain its status after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, with U.S. becoming the sole superpower, both politically and economically. Politically, this was the first time in the history of humanity, when diplomacy replaced hard power and countries came together to form strategic alliances and institutions, in the spirit of cooperation, led by the United States.

Economic and Social Analysis

Pax Romana created the first model of a free trade economy. Roman provinces from Scotland to towns of West Africa freely traded together[7], without any barriers. In addition, import taxes between city states fell, as Rome consolidated its power. Rome developed a common currency to meet the commercial needs that arose from free trade, a fact which contributed more to the economic success of the empire. But free movement occurred not only among goods and capital, but also among people. Citizens were allowed to live and work in all provinces of the Roman Empire, with the exception of slaves and serfs[8]. Unlike the Roman Empire, this was anchored around metropolises, the Mongol nation did not have an established infrastructure. There were no towns or cities, only small tribal villages spread throughout the steppe. The conquest of China proved to be very lucrative for the Mongols, but the real treasure was the use of human capital. Genghis Khan brought from northern China engineers, soldiers, officers, scholars, artists, musicians, pharmacists, etc.


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