The rule of the church
Empires built around the strength of a nation are only half the story when it comes to effective global powers. For an empire to stretch across borders it needs to appeal to the hearts, nay the souls, of the larger global population. For the best example of an ideology driven empire you need look no further than the papal rule during the Crusades. The Crusades, or the Holy Wars, involved armies from many nations, often nations who had unresolved conflicts with one another, uniting under the common banner of the church and marching on the infidels. Nothing has the power to encourage violent passion in a man like a good bout of religious fervour. The guarantee by the church that any sins a man committed while on the Crusade would be forgiven was just an added bonus.
For many years the nations, who could justifiably claim to be the world powers of the time, had their political agenda dictated by the church. The church even tried to dictate the personal lives of monarchs, King Henry the 8th being a prime example.
Religion is still a powerful tool for world domination today. Unity that stretches across national borders is perhaps the most effective way to establish an empire. However, since God is probably not in your pocket as you seek to become a global leader you may have to look past religion for something to forge this unity.
The Aeroplane Flies High
As far as military technology went there were very few developments until the early 1900s. Weaponry until that time had developed along a theme rather than anything new being created. Chariots became tanks, bows and arrows became guns and swords gradually became obsolete. In the early 1900s, I’m not sure exactly when, and this isn’t the sort of book that requires copious amounts of research, the aeroplane was developed. Smart people quickly saw its potential as a piece of weaponry. Dropping things on your enemy from a great height has been a military tactic for generations. Being able to actually fly above the heads of your enemies had, until that moment, been simply a pipe dream, akin to pigs flying, except that the pigs were humans.
The aeroplane is a modern day miracle. Keeping thousands of tones (well maybe not thousands) suspended in the air is a triumph of modern day physics (who would have thought that grade 12 math would serve a purpose after all). It didn’t take long for the purity of this new invention to be soiled by someone with a thirst for power. Without planes World War 2 could still be going today. What a horrible thought.
The technology doesn’t stop there, scientists and military minds are now working on the theme of sending things very high up in the air, and either keeping them there, or having them crash down on thousands of innocent civilians. That’s how wars are won. Never mind the “collateral damage”* just blow up as much of the other side’s stuff as possible. The United States, at the time of writing, are pursuing the ultimate in aerospace technology, the Star Wars program, spaceships that blow up other people’s missiles. To think that all this was born because two brothers were sick of walking around and wanted to fly instead.
* Since the second Gulf war, otherwise known as the “liberation of the people of Iraq” Collateral Damage has been the term employed by the media to describe unexpected civilian casualties. Liberation too has undergone a process of redefinition. Liberation now means to leave the civilians in a worse state than when you found them, sometimes dead. “Liberation” and “Collateral Damage” go hand in hand.