In constructing our understanding of the past, the resulting narrative we create is called “History.” Empires and nations are some examples to use as basis for those narratives. What are some advantages and limitations of using them as the main way of engaging the past? What other options do we have?
History has shown us that empires can come and go in almost any region of the world, especially where multiple cultures coexist with each other. With that said, when an empire does rule over a vast territory that include such inhabitants, there always is a story being told (which later becomes history) about the empire’s reign of a region via artifacts, primary sources, and secondary sources. From studying these historical resources, one can engage the past by looking at an empire as a basis for what came about and unfolded within a historical narrative. And why not?
Most empires are powerful and prosperous; emperors and empresses almost always have their empire redefine boundaries, often blending multiple peoples spread across different regions under one rule. With that, historical evidence from visiting and analyzing surviving structures, written documents and even currency that stand the test of time is ultimately the best way of looking at the past through inferring what the time period was like, most effectively in gaining additional insight / perspective from viewing multiple sources together.
On the flipside, nations (and even centers of former empires) have a tendency of establishing long rules, especially if built upon a dynasty. The way I see it, there is one major drawback from looking at history through this perspective and that is regarding bias and depiction of certain events and / or people that would be otherwise labeled as untrue or unsupportable without archaeological evidence or proof. For example, the Chinese and Japanese have had dynasties dating back to antiquity. But because historically, a system of writing only has existed since Sumer, there isn’t any kind of written proof of the earlier rulers, essentially making them legendary.