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The Majapahit Empire for Unit 1 of AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Dec 21, 2023

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At the height of its power, the Majapahit Empire was one of the greatest empires of its time, spanning much of modern-day Indonesia and leaving a lasting legacy that is still visible today. From 1293 to 1478 CE, this extensively far-reaching force spread its political, religious, and cultural influence before eventually declining and leaving behind a fascinating history to explore. In this article, you’ll discover the captivating history of the Majapahit Empire, so that you can use it as an example on the AP World History test.




You can read and watch videos on the Majapahit Empire using Google Slides, or you can scroll down to read on the website.



Gapura Bajang Ratu, one of the large gates of the Majapahit Empire
Gapura Bajang Ratu, one of the large gates of the Majapahit Empire 2396152031/Shutterstock

Java Before the Majapahit Empire

Before the emergence of the Majapahit Empire, the island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago was witness to a rich tapestry of cultures and kingdoms. The period leading up to Majapahit saw the dominance of the Srivijaya and Singhasari Kingdoms. Srivijaya, an influential maritime kingdom, flourished between the 7th and 14th centuries and played a pivotal role in regional trade, connecting Java with other parts of Southeast Asia. Singhasari, its successor, rose to prominence in the late 13th century under the rule of Kertanegara. This era witnessed cultural and artistic achievements, with temples and monuments reflecting the Hindu-Buddhist influences prevalent at the time. Java was a melting pot of diverse influences, fostering trade, artistic expression, and the development of sophisticated political structures. The groundwork laid by Srivijaya and Singhasari set the stage for the Majapahit Empire, which would later emerge as a powerful and influential force in the region.


The Beginning of the Majapahit Empire

The Majapahit Empire was founded on the Island of Java in 1293. Like the Srivijaya Empire, the Majapahit Empire was a maritime empire with a strong navy to protect trade routes and ports.

Over time, the Majapahit Empire took over land from the Srivijaya Empire. At its greatest extent, the empire occupied modern Indonesia and parts of Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, and the Philipines. Because the empire occupied the Strait of Malacca that connected the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, they controlled all sea trade routes between India and China. The people of the empire became rich trading spices, gold, and wood.


The Majapahit Empire lost power as Islamic influence in Southeast Asia expanded. In 1478, the Demak Sultanate took over the capital city. While parts of the empire continued, it would never reach its previous dominance in the area.


The Majapahit Empire

The Majapahit Empire, spanning the late 13th to the early 16th century in the Indonesian archipelago, marked a period of significant advancements and cultural achievements. One notable aspect was Majapahit’s sophisticated administrative system, governed by a well-structured bureaucracy that efficiently managed the empire’s vast territories. The Majapahit legal code, known as the “Kutara-Kutara Dharmasastra,” reflected a comprehensive set of laws and regulations.


In addition to administrative prowess, Majapahit demonstrated a remarkable understanding of hydraulic engineering, as evidenced by the construction of extensive irrigation systems and reservoirs. These innovations contributed to increased agricultural productivity, supporting a thriving economy.


Culturally, Majapahit showcased its artistic brilliance through the creation of intricate temple complexes, such as the famous Trowulan temples. The Majapahit court was a patron of the arts, fostering the development of literature, dance, and performing arts. Notable literary works, including the epic poem “Nagarakretagama” by Prapanca, provided insights into the empire’s sociopolitical landscape.


Majapahit’s maritime prowess was another key advancement, with the empire dominating regional trade routes and fostering connections with neighboring cultures. This maritime influence contributed to the spread of Majapahit’s cultural and artistic achievements throughout Southeast Asia.


The End of the Majapahit Empire

The Majapahit Empire, which had once stood as a powerful and influential force in the Indonesian archipelago, faced a gradual decline that marked its eventual end. By the 15th century, internal conflicts, regional uprisings, and external pressures had weakened the empire’s control. The exact circumstances of Majapahit’s downfall are complex, with historical accounts pointing to a combination of internal strife, dynastic disputes, and the rising influence of Islamic states in the region.


One significant event often associated with the decline of Majapahit is the sacking of its capital, Trowulan, by the Demak Sultanate in the early 16th century. This event marked a symbolic end to Majapahit’s political and military dominance. However, remnants of the Majapahit court retreated to East Java, where a successor state known as the Kingdom of Blambangan continued for some time.



Would you prefer to watch a video about the Majapahit Empire?






   


Developments in South and Southeast Asia from 1200 to 1450


Unit 1:The Global Tapestry


AP World History




Majapahit Empire for AP World History

#APWorldHistory #MajapahitEmpire #SouthandSoutheastAsia

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Dec 21, 2023

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0

0

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