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Activity: What Caused Expansion?

Purpose

This exercise will get you to think about the causes of the expansion of civilizations by completing an activity where you are the leader of a civilization. This is a great way for you to begin to think about the pros and cons associated with the development of agrarian civilizations.

Process

Imagine that you are part of the ruling class of an agrarian civilization. You have a problem: Your civilization is running low on resources! You have two options: raise taxes on your citizens or conquer a neighboring civilization. What will you do?
Download the worksheet and develop your plan.
Mongols using Chinese gunpowderbombs during the Mongol Invasions of Japan, 1281. "Mooko-Suenaga". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

For Further Discussion

In the Questions Area below, write the following:
  • Whether you decided to raise taxes or conquer a neighboring civilization.
  • Either a benefit or drawback of doing that.
Then, look at what other people wrote. If someone listed a benefit of their plan, you should comment and list a drawback. Or, if someone listed a drawback, respond with a benefit. Remember, it’s always best to look at things from multiple perspectives.

Want to join the conversation?

  • mr pink red style avatar for user WallAvi
    One possible solution would be to actually do both -- if one is sure of success.

    War/conquering neighbors -- is an expensive endeavour. One needs both manpower and resources to support and sustain that man power over any extended engagement. Initial reconnaissance, developing a strategy, training and preparing men and their families for battle, preservation and defense of existing resources, initial attack, short and prolonged battles, victory and eventual cleanup, recovery and return to normalcy all have a price.

    Then there would be more resources to have to protect -- spread over a wider area --along with keeping rebels subdued.

    Hopefully this would then provide a larger tax base with more goods and services to tax, provide a larger taxable population until the treasury is built up enough to invest in the latest technological advances or conquer the next neighbor -- whichever seems to provide the best return with the least investment.
    (13 votes)
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    • leafers seed style avatar for user Michael MacDonald
      Going to war without ample resources in place will cause further strain on resources, So, let the war mongers go to war against a population with more resources, they would likely lose, and the over all population will be reduced, and consequently reduce the strain on resources for the remaining population, and also lessen need for any taxes as well.
      (6 votes)
  • leafers seed style avatar for user Michael MacDonald
    Raising taxes on the population will deter population from further over consumption. If resources are renewable, population have better opportunity to manage resources next they are available .
    (6 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user weber
      Raising taxes doesn't take that money out of circulation, it just shifts the purchasing power from the taxpayers to the taxers, who might then spend them internally, continuing to strain resources. Even the rulers putting tax money into mammoth building projects fails to take it out of circulation, since it is spent on labor and materials, and thence enters back into the economy. Unless the idea is to raise taxes, then purchase resources from outside the country. But that was one of the things that ancient Romans thought was dooming their country--the outflow of coinage from Rome to the East to purchase exotic goods. On the other hand they conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, which then served long and well as Rome's breadbasket.
      (7 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user maditorn
    If I was ruling a agrarian civilization and we were running out of food storage I would conquer a neighboring civilization. I think this is the best choice. The benefit for this is conquering a civilization will get us what we need faster rather then raising taxes, taking time and money away from the people in the civilization. The drawback of doing this would be many people may get hurt and will not work out.
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Anna  Ignateva
    I think the ruler must do some economic reforms (use his brain) for making the lifes of people better while it is not the dangerous of invasion. When there is the dengerous of the invasion he need to think and to estimate his opportunities and fight of course. I think so on my level of awareness, but I hope there can be such conditions (in life or in my brain) when there is not the opportunities of the invasion or my desire to win.
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Mrsblue2017
    One possible solution is to do both

    Because by conquering a neighboring village you would need resources and the supply's to do it. But if you just raise the taxes on your people there would be a time where everyone in the village would have nothing left to give, so i believe by doing both you are conquering new lands and getting more money and resources at the same time.
    (2 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Lee Ann
    I would try to conquer a neighboring civilization because this way we will get more land and my population can continue to grow.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Mrsblue2017
      if you just conquered the neighboring civilization with little to no resources and maybe weak warriors what makes you think you could win. i mean you would have no intel on what kind of strengths these other civilizations have. It would be better to raise taxes then conquer atleast you would have time to strengthen your warriors without having to worry about if they can fight and keep up or not. But that is how i look at it.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user AnnaHerron
    I would raise taxes because war is expensive. Training and supplies for troops will put the civilization in more debt, or the resources may not be available. If you start a war to conquer another civilization they may retaliate. Considering you are low on supplies you may be conquered instead. In addition to losing money, and possibly being defeated, in my opinion conquering another civilization is wrong.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user jtreasure54
    Wouldnt it make far more sense to form alliances, share and expand resources and assimilate, adapt, and focus on strengths of each civilization rather than bring upon the tyranny, opression, and destruction of entire civilizations? Noone wins in war. Civil liberties are more conducive to the advances and success of human resources as is seen in a cooperative, more democratic society. Of course, this is an overly simplistic and altruistic view, Avoiding conflict and allowing freedom to prevail would be my goal if I were to rule a population of diverse and intelligent people. Alas, history has shown that people are not very good at governing themselves.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user christina ratliff
    i would raise taxes because at least if you raised taxes instead of conquering neighbors it would be a lot less expensive then just raising taxes
    (2 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Matthew Wang
    I would raise taxes a little but the problem would really be solved with economic reforms.
    (1 vote)
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