Department of Lore: Galactic History 103 - Rise and Fall of the Galactic Empire

1. Introduction

Welcome, students, to the Rise and Fall of the Galactic Empire. During the previous course, we ended our studies examining the dissolution of the Galactic Republic as ordered by former Supreme Chancellor, now Emperor Sheev Palpatine. In this course, we will cover the short and eventful lifespan of the Galactic Empire, the major actors that shaped the body politic, and the major civil war that finally led to its downfall.

2. Consolidation of the Empire (19 BBY - 14 BBY)

Before the end of the Clone Wars, the Jedi discovered that Chancellor Palpatine and the Sith Lord Sidious were in fact the same person. A small number of Jedi Masters, led by Mace Windu, cornered Palpatine in his office and attempted to arrest the Sith Lord. Sidious struck down all the Jedi quickly except for Windu; after being injured by his own Force lightning reflected back at him, he was able to slay the master swordsman with the help of his soon-to-be apprentice, Anakin Skywalker.

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Sidious used recordings of this event when presenting evidence to the Senate that the Jedi had turned rebellious. Everything that in fact he and his apprentices had done - the creation of clones, the Separatist crisis, the numerous assassinations of high-profile Senators - he blamed on the Jedi, and the Senate, already swept up in anti-Jedi fervor, went along. For the “security” of the Republic, Palpatine announced the reorganization of the Galactic Republic into the first Galactic Empire. Obviously, Palpatine maintained his position at the head of this new government and became Emperor, taking even more power and making him, essentially, the sole authority.

Immediately following the creation of the New Order, Palpatine and his lieutenants wasted little time in consolidating power. During this period, there remained a significant number of star systems formerly associated with the Confederacy of Independent Systems that still held deep secessionist tendencies. With the superweapon known as the Death Star still years away from completion, the Empire was forced to dispatch the might of its military to deter any who may oppose its rule. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin was a staunch proponent of this method of rule through force and fear, being made famous for a statement during a press interview that became known as the Tarkin Doctrine.

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By the end of 14 BBY, the Empire had regained complete control of Core, Inner, and Mid Rim worlds that had been members of the Republic prior to the Separatist Crisis. Most armed opposition against the Empire at this time was fractured and disorganized, having little impact against the increasingly deadly Imperial war machine. It was at this time that the Empire began to look further toward the Outer Rim territories, with Sidious hoping to expand his reach and truly rule the entire galaxy.

2.1 Imperialification

The early years of this new Galactic Empire saw increasing centralization of power, the “Imperialification” of important sites (the Coruscant sector became the Imperial sector, Galactic City became Imperial City, etc.), and an elevation of Human men at the expense of non-Humans and women. The Empire had exacerbated the perception of cultural and social superiority of the influential Core Worlds at the expense of more distant star systems. In a desperate attempt to match the beauty and wealth of these systems, the Empire both coerced and forced numerous star systems and their governments to undertake costly and grandiose infrastructure projects intended to mimic, albeit imperfectly, the splendor of the Imperial Capital.

Further Reading

3. Expansion to the Hinterlands (13 BBY - 6 BBY)

Emperor Palpatine once famously remarked, “Eventually the Empire will claim the Outer Rim. It is not without precedence to go to the periphery to secure the center." His words were fueled both by passion for his cause, and the realization that the Empire could benefit from the potentially untapped and resource-rich star systems in the galactic region.

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The Imperial industrial complex would quickly be recognized as a ruthless and indifferent machine. While it was successful in feeding the continuously expanding Empire with newly tapped sources of raw materials and essential goods, it was not without consequence. It mattered little to the Imperial administration whether a world was inhabited, established, or considered devoid of life. Numerous planets suffered major ecological and economic devastation due to Imperial presence and their policies. Over time, instances of vocal and violent opposition to Imperial rule increased as the cries of billions across the galaxy once again went ignored. It was from these early events that the earliest rumblings of full-scale revolt would begin take shape.

4. A Rebellion Grows (5 BBY - 0 BBY)

The Emperor was brutal in his subjugation of those who opposed him, ordering regional governors, the Imperial military, and other important Imperial leaders to crack down and contain the riots and civil unrest spreading in the Outer Rim Worlds such as Lothal faced increasingly growing Imperial garrisons in response to rebel actions, deemed ‘terrorist’ actions by the Imperial elite. Other worlds such as Lasat were brutally assaulted, being used as an example of what could happen if star systems opposed Imperial rule. However, there was still a growing group working to overthrow the Empire despite the numerous setbacks presented by the Empire

In the beginning, what would later come to be known as the Alliance to Restore the Republic - informally the Rebellion - was a collection of small, independent cells with little to no knowledge of the other. These cells, while efficient, were unable to mount a coordinated or significant offensive against the Empire. However, influential leaders within the various cells, including members of the Imperial Senate, undertook the monumental task of banding these cells together into a unified fighting force. By 0 BBY, the Alliance was a truly significant threat, having possession of its own fleet of starships and a highly trained, well equipped army capable of launching coordinated attacks on Imperial installations.

Further Reading

5. Galactic Civil War (0 BBY - 5 ABY)

The catalyst of the Galactic Civil War appeared in the form of leaked Imperial intelligence. For years, rebel cells across the galaxy had received tips and tidbits of information concerning a massive industrial project being undertaken by the Empire. The Imperial administration was keen and quite adept at hiding or covering their tracks, willing to falsify records and outright deny massive resource extraction projects. However, an imperial pilot, under the direction and orders of Galen Erso, the lead scientist of the Death Star project. The Rebellion responded by attacking the planet Scarif in order to steal the plans for the Death Star. The Battle of Scarif and the retreat of Princess Leia Organa marked the civil war’s beginning.

The Emperor and his subordinates were now aware of the threat this Rebellion caused, and set out their energy to quelling it. One of their chief sources of instilling terror and ending the Rebel threat they demonstrated on the planet Alderaan, which had Rebel sympathies. In 0 BBY, Grand Moff Tarkin, one of the Emperor’s top lieutenants, commanded the Death Star, a massive battle station two decades in the making. To showcase the power of the Emperor’s new superweapon and in response to Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan’s refusal to tell him the location of the hidden base, Tarkin fired the Death Star’s superlaser at Alderaan, obliterating the planet and all its inhabitants.

5.1 A New Hope

Instead of breaking the spirit of the Rebellion, the destruction of Alderaan served to strengthen the resolve of those fighting. During the Battle of Yavin, Rebel starfighters penetrated the defenses of the Death Star and one, piloted by a young man from Tatooine named Luke Skywalker, launched a pair of proton torpedos through an unarmored exhaust port that led directly into the battlestation’s reactor core, blowing it up from the inside.

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Skywalker, who was actually Darth Vader’s son, was strong in the Force and had received basic training in the ways of the Jedi by Obi-Wan Kenobi before the elderly Jedi had been struck down by Vader. He received additional instruction from former Grandmaster Yoda on the planet Dagobah. The Emperor was keen to corrupt young Skywalker and turn him to the dark side, possibly to replace Vader (who had outlived his usefulness), and attempted to do just that aboard the second Death Star. With the Battle of Endor raging around them, Vader and his son dueled in front of a gleeful Emperor; as with all previous apprentices, it would take a major dark act to solidify Luke’s fall to the Sith, and killing his father would be just that.

However, Skywalker managed to check his anger, stopping himself from falling to the dark side. Enraged, the Emperor decided to punish Skywalker before killing him, and struck the young Jedi with Force lightning. Seeing his son being murdered in front of him was too much for Vader, and before the lightning could kill Skywalker, the injured Vader grabbed the Emperor and threw him into the reactor shaft. Plummeting to his death, the Emperor managed to strike out with the Force one last time, destroying Vader’s life support systems, but the two Skywalkers - father and son - were able to spend a brief moment together before the now-redeemed Anakin died in his son’s arms.

With the Emperor’s death, the Imperial fleet was bested, and the second Death Star met the same fate as its predecessor. With both Sith master and apprentice dead, the Sith lineage that traced back a thousand years to Darth Bane ended. Beyond that, the back of the Empire was broken, and the Alliance to Restore the Republic was successful in their mission.

Further Reading

6. Conclusion

The Galactic Civil War would continue to rage for another year following the Battle of Endor, though the Empire was ultimately on the decline. The Alliance to Restore the Republic had struck a crippling blow that would eventually lead to the defeat of the Imperial remnant at the Battle of Jakku, and the end of the Galactic Empire, which would fade into the annals of history being referred to as the Old Order.

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