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Concept of Imperial Powers in History Research Paper


Imperialism is a term used to describe the relationship between a more powerful state and a less powerful one (Howe, 13). In addition, imperialism is the creation and maintaining of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship mainly between states. The relationship is based on domination and subordination.

One way of enhancing Imperialism is through the use of walls, which are fences demarcating territories. Primarily, imperial rulers used walls to out mark their territories; these walls were meant to limit movement within empires and offer security against enemies.

In most times, Imperial powers are associated with unjust rule and control of people (Garnsey and Whittaker 1). Some of the examples of walls created by Imperial states are the great walls of Hadrian in the Roman Empire, the west bank barrier between Israel and Palestine, and the Berlin walls separating west and the Communist East German.

One major role of walls is to offer security and economic development. Most of these walls were set with entry points, which were controlled by the rulers, while the gates were used as taxation points.

West bank barrier

This wall separates Israel and Palestine. It is created by the state of Israel and due to completion in 2010. The main function of this barrier is preventing terror attacks in Israel by Palestinians. Primarily, the wall consists of fences, walls vehicle barrier and trenches.

The Palestine claims that the area where the barrier is built was taken from them. The barrier contains of entry points that allow only permitted people and goods. This barrier has caused a lot of tension in the world. This barrier has limited Palestine from accessing vital social services.

Great Wall of China

This barrier was built in the 7th century in china. The first part of the wall was built by Emperor Qin Shi in 221 BC (Evans, 3). It is approximately 3700 miles and consists of several walls and fortification, many running parallel to each other. These parallel walls were meant to reinforce the original wall. The wall was designed to with stand small arms like swords and spears.

The main intention for the wall was to protect the unification Emperor Shi had achieved by conquering his neighbors. Later the wall was extended by the kingdom rulers to keep off normads invaders on the northern border of China. This wall was seen as a sign of the Emperor dictatorship. There is a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from the outer space, which has been refuted by scientist. The Walls of China are one of the best-known empire walls presently.

Hadrian’s Wall

The Hadrian’s Wall was established by a Roman ruler named Hadrian in northern Britain. “Construction began in 122 Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway and later extended eastwards to Wallsend” (Lesley and Roy 101). It was first of two-fortification build in Great Britain.

The Hadrian’s Wall was 117 km long, 10ft thick and 15 to 20 ft high. The wall was built with stones but the western part was built with turf since limestone was not available in that region, while ditches were incorporated in the wall. There were eight fort lets along the wall each being 1480m apart, between which there were two intermediate watch towers which allowed signals to be transmitted. Moreover, the fort let were used for housing patrol troops and storing weapons and other non-strategic materials (Lesley and Roy 103).

Berlin’s wall

The construction of the Berlin wall began in 1961, with the aim of preventing the interaction between the East and West German. This decision was arrived at after East Berlin had suffered a massive brain drain. The fence was initially made of barbed wire fence, but as the number of people making attempt to climb over increased; the wall was rebuild using bricks.

The wall was also reinforced with soldier to check people trying to cross the border. This wall was used to support the ideologies of a repressive regime. The Berlin wall came down in1989, which marked the end of cold war.

Significance of the wall


The major significance of the empire walls was military and defense. They were built to limit movement and possible attacks from other people. Walls were built to incorporate defensive works like forts, stores, and beacon towers. The walls had built-in barracks for housing soldiers and watchtowers for looking out for invaders.

The stores along the walls offered storage space for foodstuff like dried grains for consumption by soldiers on patrol. The beacon towers on wall aided in Communication between the Territorial Army units along the length of the wall. Some walls were used to demarcate territories especially after capturing.

The Great Wall of China was built to ensure that the nomadic groups did not enter the northern part of china; however, after conquering the opposing states Emperor Qin Shi unified China in 221 BC. In order to centralize and his empire, he erected a wall along the new empire’s frontier.

The importance of the west bank barrier is to protect Israel population from the Palestine Terrorism. This barrier is said to have reduced suicide attacker from entering Israel territory.


The other importance of walls is aiding and supporting economic, and infrastructure development. The Great Walls of China protected trading routes like the silk route, hence safeguarding the transmission of goods and communication. On the other hand, the gates of the Hadrian wall served as customs stations for collection of tax and levy from traders entering the Empire. Moreover, the Berlin wall prevented economic migrants from leaving East German for West where cost of living was cheaper.

The walls symbolized also indicated the might of Empires; for instance, the skills and economic requirements are large such that only the large and wealthy Empires could afford. Primarily, they are symbols of a nation’s enduring strength, as well as repelling foreign influences and hence exerting influence on its citizens.

In addition, they are a symbol of strength and unity; like in the case of Berlin wall, it was made to deter people from defecting from the East to West Germany. The walls also prevented the slaves of an Empire from fleeing from their masters, thus, the slaves gave a large contribution to the economy of the Empires.

Political and governance

The walls have shaped the governance and politics of the nations. In Berlin, the fall of the wall resulted to unification of West and East German to the present Germany, while in the politics of the world, the separated sides became evident. For instance, the fall of the Berlin wall defined the current governance structure in Europe. Different groups and nations felt sympathy and campaigned for ending of repressive regimes; thus “two historians have demonstrated in a recent academic paper that, Labour politicians, trade unionists, churchmen and The Guardian gave moral support to East Germany as recently as 1980s” (Thompson para1).

The Berlin wall helped the communist party to control and govern its people. On the other hand, the Hadrian wall also used it many gates for collection of revenue through taxation and levy from traders. The walls were also to demarcate the boundaries. They also symbolized existence of sovereign political, economical, and cultural power among the people in the Empire. These symbols became typical evidence of autonomy and sovereignty as seen in its reception of written constitution (Fryde and Reitz 27).

Industrialization and globalization

The walls were used to control both natural resources and indigenous societies and putting them to work (Bulliet, et al, 676). Imperial powers brought about industrial revolutions, which enhanced import and export. This is due to the fact that the need for raw materials like agricultural products and minerals for industries make trade grow faster.

However, the growing need of industrial products could not be met using the traditional means of production and transportation. In order to counter this challenge the imperial powers brought their territories to the global market. Moreover, transportation means were most detectable start of Globalization, while migration and urbanizations contributed to urbanization.

Foreign influence

Imperial powers used walls to cartel foreign influence on their regimes and restricted people from moving from one empire to another. As a result, the Imperial powers were able to suppression their subjects without any complain. It also limited intercultural interaction and hence maintained their cultural values and heritage.


People in East Germany were left to be ruled by evils of communism without anywhere to go, as the soviet did not allow them to use their border. In addition, “in East Germany, a communist system was established and many people had to suffer under repressions of the Communist party” (Best, Hanhimaki and Maiolo 237).

Indeed, East Berlin lost most of their skilled workers to West German since life was cheaper in the west. Moreover, many people were shot dead in attempt of the crossing the barrier. However, the people of East German devised floating balloons made from nylon, which they used to fly over the wall with. Nevertheless, in order to restrain this new method of escaping, the government restricted the sale of light cloth making it impossible to find cloth.

There has been reduced terror attack in Israel since the building of the West Bank barrier; that is, it is believed that in areas where the barrier is complete the level of attack has reduced to zero.

Many Jerusalem Palestinians who occupied the areas beyond the border brought about many social problems following their move to the city; however, the impact the barrier has created; reduced freedom, loss of land and road closures to the Palestine. It is difficult to access medical and education services in Israel. It is predicted that this barrier will prevent many Palestinians from receiving healthcare services like immunization, emergency treatment and specialized surgical procedure. The blockade has undermined the economy of Palestine.

The barrier was built on land seized from Palestine. Along the route, shops and stalls were demolished crashing the economy of Palestine. In addition, families that lived near the boarder lost their homes. The barrier has divided some people’s farmland and the farmers will require permits to cross over to access their land.

Given that farming is a primary source of income in Palestine, harming of this sector has made the Palestine economy to weaken. Additionally, it has resulted to high food prices due to the reduced farmland. The Palestinians are not able to market and transport their produce. This border has split families from their relatives.

Another effect of the wall is that, Palestine will lack water since a third of water resources are on the side of the border. On the other hand, the wall broke the communication links including roads and air traffic. In addition, the building of the barrier will not only increase the hostility between Palestine and Israel, but also will make peace negotiation between the two nations difficult in future.

The ancient walls and their ruins are a big tourist attraction and offers big contribution to the economic sector. During the building of the Great Wall Of China Canals and massive road, systems were built to help trading between North and South China.


As a result of imperial walls, the transportation and communication system was created, while transportation of people and goods in the sea was discovered. Deep Harbors, ports and canals eased transportation of heavy raw materials. Steamships lowered the time and the cost of transportation (Bulliet, et al, 677). Extensive road linkage was build along the walls. The road system was used by traders and soldiers. The Great wall of China opened the silk trade route.


Industrial requirements of raw materials resulted to degradation and pollution of the environment. For instance, the mining of coal, gold, and copper for industrial purposes exposed the land to soil erosion. In addition, the introduction of commercial plants in some areas caused the forests to be cut down and replaced with new plants.

Due to Imperialization, new species of plants were introduced in other areas; for instance, in West bank barrier, agricultural activities have been hampered since some farmers land was separated by the wall. The mining of raw materials ruined the forest cover, Amazon, polluted water sources with silt and so on. Imperial powers also exploited mineral resources from their colonies and later shipping them to their Empire leaving the environment bare.


According to Strickland and Boswell (16), “the roman Empire stretched from England to Egypt and from Spain to southern Russia.” Due to this, interaction with foreign cultures such as the Romans absorbed elements from other cultures, particularly the Greece (Greco-Roman).

This culture blend was later passed on to Western Europe. Primarily, this blend of cultures leads to globalization and the start of cosmopolitan cities. In the Roman Empire where many people were poor, the emperors used entertainment to divert their attention from their grievances. For instance, the roman rulers build the Colosseum of Rome, a 50,000 spectator seated theater. Moreover, the Colosseum is still one of the largest buildings by size and it inspired the present day stadium design (Strickland and Boswell 18).

Generally, culture was expressed in form of art through art graffiti and slogans on the walls. For instance, in the Greco-Roman culture, the Greece and the Romans influenced each other using artistic style. In addition, through the Roman Empire, expansion and conquering other states, the Romans were able to spread Christian religion (Adkins and Adkins 105).

The walls in the Roman Empire gave the people a sense of belonging. The walls also have separated families; for instance, in West bank, the barrier has separated family members by restricting them from visiting either side without permits

Resistance Movements and terror

The existence of walls caused resisting of the repressive regimes; for instance, in the case of the Berlin wall, people in Europe campaigned against the communism system. In the end the wall came down in1989. On the western side of the Berlin wall slogans of resistance were written calling for the end of communism.

After the fall of the wall, German was unified with the West and the Eastern Berlins were able to enjoy freedom of expression, good economy among other benefits. On the other hand, wall stopped resistance since the imperial had a total control of them. The walls helped imperial powers to exert complete dominance on its subjects. In the case of the Roman Empire, many people lived in desolate state but they did not offer resistance for a long time. These walls helped to advance slave trade and use.

The Palestine in resisting the building of the west bank wall has resulted to terror attack. There have been many cases of suicide attacks on the gates of the west bank killing people crossing the wall. The Palestine terrorists have devised new methods of attacking Israel such as launching explosives over the fence. The wall has also created a state of war with Palestine sympathizers, condemning Israel while the allies of Israel are supporting its action.

Architecture and Engineering

The wall built by imperial powers and their dynasty gave insight and inspiration to the modern structures, architectural techniques and engineering. They were able to build very high barriers, which could withstand and support large amount of weights. One of greatest symbol of architecture in the Roman Empire the ‘colloseum of Rome’ gave insight to the present day building of stadiums.

How barriers can be circumvented

In order to circumvent the Berlin Wall the people of West German devised ways of crossing the barricade. Some of the methods used are; underground tunnels, flying over and also climbing over the fence. In attempt of crossing over to West German a series of underground tunnels were dug. The premier triumphant tunnel was dug in a graveyard by students, and was later discovered when a woman dropped in the channel and left her child. This channel was later sealed.

The other method employed was flying over the wall through the use of hot air balloons made out of nylon cloth; and using some fuel, they put the balloons in the air and floated over the boarder to West German. Due to this activity, the sale of light cloth was greatly restricted. The government banned sale of ropes and twines. Most of the people who tried to climb the wall were shot on sight.

In the West Bank territory, many channels have been dug to transport goods and people. This is a big industry for owner of the channels make large amounts of money from these routes. Other means of circumventing the walls was through water channels. Using sail rafts, boats and in some cases swimming across seas, oceans and lakes. The walls were also demolished by either the people of the Empire or the Invader. Several sections of the Berlin wall had to be repaired or reinforced after destruction from fleeing Berlins.

How walls have taken life of their own not expected by their creators

The walls have become tourist sites and museums; for instance, the ruins of the Roman Empire walls are a rich cultural heritage site. These walls help the economy through foreign exchange generated from the tourist sector. In addition, they have created employment; tour guides, conservers, museums workers and archeological experts, thus, they became areas of developing art. Graffiti and other symbols were engraved on the walls as signs of rebellion and social activism.

Therefore, the walls were used to communicate social and political messages. Slogan appeared on the Western side of the Berlin wall but not on the Eastern side. Moreover, there was no freedom of expression in the communist East. When the Berlin wall fell the graffiti walls attained of commercial value. Individuals were able to buy a piece of history. The Collesium of Rome and the Great Wall of China are endorsed by UNESCO as one of the wonders of the world.

These sites have become a symbol of the power and resilience nations and the people. The wall of Berlin later became the unifying factor between the West and East German and gave a rich history of the ancient days. Nevertheless, through exploring these sites, archeologists are able to predict the era and lifestyles of those days.

Works Cited

Adkins, Lesly & Adkins, Roy. Handbook to life in ancient Rome. NY: Infobase Publishing. 2004.

Best, Antony, Hanhimaki, Jussi and Maiolo, Joseph. International History of the Twentieth Century. NY: Routledge. 2003.

Bulliet, Richard et al. The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History: Since 1500. OH: Cengage Learning. 2008.

Evans, Thammy. Great Wall of China: Beijing and Northern China. NY: Bradt Travel Guides. 2006.

Fryde, Natalie and Reitz, Dirk. Walls, Ramparts, and Lines of Demarcation: Selected Studies from Antiquity to Modern Times. London: LIT Verlag Münster. 2009.

Garnsey, P. A. and Whittaker, C. Imperialism in the Ancient World: The Cambridge University: Cambridge University Press. 2007.

Howe, Stephen. Empire: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002.

Strickland, Carol and Boswell, John. The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2007.

Thompson, Damian. How Labour politicians and The Guardian helped keep the Berlin Wall standing. 2010. 13 November 2010.

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