Imperialism is generally understood to be the policy of extending one’s rule over foreign societies leading to the establishment of an empire. Imperialism has recently experienced an unexpected revival. The unique position of the United States in the post–cold war international system has encouraged prominent authors to advocate an open and unapologetic imperialist foreign policy (sometimes in conjunction with other Western states)—whereas their critics identify such policies as dangerous. Because such judgments are based on competing interpretations of historical imperialism, this entry will first provide a historical overview, followed by a brief introduction to theories of imperialism.

Historically, empires have existed across time and space: from the Assyrian, Persian, and Chinese Empires in Asia through the Greek and Roman Empires, and from the Islamic Caliphates around ...

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