via New Mandala, 09 January 2020: Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan surveys epigraphic evidence across the Nusantara to determine the nature of the Majapahit ’empire’.
After all this, can we say that Majapahit was really an empire? The answer depends on what we mean by the word. If being an empire means the direct administration of provinces, permanent military occupation, and the imposition of political and cultural norms over a wide area, then Majapahit was probably not an empire. Javanese rule over the other islands was too intermittent and too indirect to qualify by those criteria.
But if being an empire means the projection of military power at will, formal acknowledgement of overlordship by vassals and third parties, and the regular delivery of tribute to the centre, then Java’s relationship to the archipelago can well be considered an imperial one, especially during the late Singhasari (1268–92) and middle Majapahit (1330–1400) periods. At other times, such as early Majapahit period (1293–1330) and the late Majapahit period (after 1400), the Javanese dream of an overseas empire is much less credible.