Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: The History Of The Galactic Empire

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our new column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing the Galactic Empire.

So, what’s the deal with the Galactic Empire in the current continuity? 


Born from the machinations of Chancellor Palpatine, the Galactic Empire replaced the Galactic Republic in the wake of the Clone Wars. Promising stability and security after years of costly war, Palpatine name himself Emperor and consolidated the Empire.

The Jedi were killed in Order 66, though many went into hiding. An organization called The Inquisition was formed to hunt down and eliminate any remaining Jedi survivors. The Imperial Senate was now a bureaucracy with very little power. Instead, systems were controlled by regional governors and military might in the form of stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, and TIE Fighters. Weapons of fear were used to keep the populace in line… the first of which was the Emperor’s right hand man, the Sith Lord Darth Vader, who also took a very hands on role in hunting down the last of the Jedi.


In the years after the Clone Wars, the Empire strengthened its infrastructure and wiped out the last pockets of Separatist resistance. doctrine As the Empire expanded into the Outer Rim, alien species became second class citizens and the subject of much racism. Grand Moff Tarkin was assigned to oversee the construction of the Death Star, which would the ultimate tool in keeping the population in line through oppression.

Over the years, however, an insurgency grew against the Empire spawned from many politicians and heroes from the old Republic including Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Ahsoka Tano, and Kanan Jarrus. Eventually, these insurgents would form the Rebel Alliance, which would grow in influence.  The Galactic Civil War had begun.

The Empire cracked down on the Rebels, culminating in the completion of the Death Star. When the Empire located their hidden base on Yavin IV, they sent the Death Star to destroy it and wipe out the organization’s leadership. However, Luke Skywalker destroyed the station in his X-Wing fighter. It was a considerable victory for the Alliance, but the Empire pursued them across the galaxy to their new base on the ice planet Hoth. The Rebels were routed.


A year later, the Rebels regrouped for a counter offensive against the still under construction second Death Star. They were unaware, however, that their intelligence on the Death Star’s location on Endor was leaked to them by the Empire. The Rebels were lured into a trap, but they still prevailed. The Death Star was destroyed, Vader and Palpatine were killed, and the Imperial fleet routed.

In the wake of the Empreror’s death, the Empire locked itself down and became a severely isolationist state. Governor Adelhard of the Anoat sector surrounded his space with a blockade. The remaining high ranking Imperial leaders met on the planet Akiva to plan a counter offensive against the New Republic, which had formed from the Rebel Alliance in response to their success.

The Empire struck back against the New Republic, but suffered far more defeats than victories. They attempted three times to take back the world of Naboo after it was liberated, hoping to score a symbolic victory by holding the homeworld of their founding monarch. They were unsuccessful.


The conflict came to a head on the remote world of Jakku. The Empire threw everything they had at the New Republic in both space and land engagements… but the New Republic prevailed due to the superior tactics of its leaders including Admiral Ackbar. The New Republic continued absorbing worlds across the Empire.

Humiliated and broken, the Empire agreed to sign a formal peace treaty with the New Republic and retreated to the Outer Rim. After decades of stewing in their defeats… they reformed into the fundamentalist organization The First Order, ready to make a power play.

What about the Galactic Empire in the Expanded Universe?

Imperial Palace

After the end of the Clone Wars and the Jedi Purge, Palpatine reformed the Republic into an Empire with himself as dictator. All Republic institutions were reorganized to meet the new system of government, including the Senate, Army, Navy, and Intelligence branches. The Palace of the Republic was expanded and remodeled into Imperial Palace. Any who opposed the changes were often subject to execution. Any remaining Jedi were hunted down by Darth Vader.

Over the next few years, power was transferred to regional governors and the military was built up considerably, leading to a re-conquest of the Mid and Outer Rims of the galaxy in an attempt to eliminate all remaining Separatist threats. Many aliens, notably Wookies, were conscripted as slaves or lived free under the yoke of a harshly racist regime.

empire navy

After many years, three senators (Bail Organa, Garm Bel Iblis, and Mon Mothma) started an uprising against the Empire with the help of Darth Vader’s ex-apprentice Galen Marek. This new Rebel Alliance led to the creation of Grand Moff Tarkin’s “Tarkin Doctrine,” which called for rule by fear of force.

Sympathy for the Rebellion permeated the senate, which led to Palpatine disbanding the body altogether when he was ready to rule through fear of the Death Star. However, the station was destroyed at the Battle of Yavin. The Empire responded with overwhelming Force, driving the Rebels across the galaxy to the Hoth system and then scattering them altogether.


However, the Rebels banded together again to destroy the Second Death Star at Endor. Despite being lured into a trap, the Rebels prevailed. The Imperials had suffered a major blow. Intelligence Director Ysanne Isard tried to hold the Empire together, but the New Republic cut a swath through Imperial space, eventually taking Coruscant with the help of Rogue Squadron.

The Empire fractured and the remaining regional governors declared themselves warlords of their respective territories. Without a coherent leader, the New Republic made substantial headway. However, the last remaining Imperial Grand Admiral, Thrawn, rallied much of the remaining Imperial Forces and launched a counter offensive on the New Republic. Through his brilliant tactics, he recaptured nearly half of the galaxy before being assassinated.


The New Republic took back much of the re-conquered territory, but fell under more conflict with Palpatine returned in a clone body. He lured Luke Skywalker to join the Dark Side and launched a campaign involving several superweapons that severaly hurt New Republic territory. Leia Organa turned her brother back to the Light, however, and the New Republic prevailed.

Having suffered so much loss, the all the remained of the Empire were the pockets of warlords in the mid and outer rims known as the Imperial Remnent.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about the Galactic Empire in the new continuity?

Amazingly enough, we actually know pretty much the complete history of both continuities now. There are still some gaps in the Empire’s post-Return of the Jedi fate but overall we know the trajectory of the organization. There is some speculation that they will bring Grand Admiral Thrawn into the new continuity, as there was allusions in Star Wars: Aftermath that a new fleet admiral would be taking command of Imperial forces, however it’s all speculation at this point.

We can only hope.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about the history of Star Destroyers.

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