The Pre-War Republic and Jedi Order
Basis for Division
The Clone Wars
The Middle Years
The Fall of the Empire
Before the Clone Wars began, there existed the Republic and a number of independent multi-planet polities, such as Hutt Space, and independent planets, such as Kamino. The Republic was a loose coalition of planets and organizations, with a Senate made up of senators from planetary and corporate interests. The Senate primarily regulated trade; slavery, although illegal in the Republic, was practiced by many of its neighbors, e.g., the Hutts. In practice, the Senate also answered to the Jedi Order, a quasi-religious organizations of mystics who doubled as roving enforcers of Republic policy.
Particularly problematic within the Senate was the question of trade barriers between Republic members. Prosperous corporate entities, such as the Trade Federation felt that the taxation of interstellar trade represented an oppressive measure; manipulated by then-Senator Palpatine, they built a droid army in secret, and launched a blockade of Naboo to pressure the Republic to lift the taxes.
When this measure failed, an assortment of non-human trade interests banded together and declared their independence from the Republic under the public leadership of Count Dooku, an influential human noble and fallen Jedi.
Faced with the reality of an independent and armed Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Republic authorized the use of a newly-created Clone Army. Palpatine rose to chancellor around this time, and began to receive emergency powers, paralleling Hitler's rise to power.
The Jedi Order immediately put this army to use to rescue several of its members being held by Count Dooku for spying. The better-trained and better-supported clone army overwhelmed a vastly larger number of droids, and the Clone Wars began. Conflict flickered across the galaxy, with major battles occurring on planets never before held by the Republic. This invisibly began the expansion of the Republic and Confederacy.
As the Clone Wars raged across formerly neutral territories under careful direction from Palpatine, political power was increasingly concentrated in Palpatine's hands, with the Senate and Jedi Order barely able to hold Palpatine in check. Through the subversion of Anakin Skywalker and the clone army, Palpatine eliminated the Jedi Order overnight along with the CIS leadership. He assumed full control of both and declared that the Republic was now an Empire. The Senate no longer had any legal powers of note left to it, but would remain as a symbolic entity. Nonhumans, having been the bulk of the CIS, were taken down a notch; it was humans who would be presenting the face of the Empire to the world.
Dissaffected and disempowered Senators assembled with a few other world leaders to start a resistance movement.
The seeds of the Rebellion were sown during the coup itself. The resistance movement grew. So did the Empire. The rapid rate of militarization and forcible expansion seen during the Clone Wars continued, and the Hutts went underground. Most other neutral powers disappeared, annexed into the Empire.
It was nearly twenty years until the Rebellion managed its first military victory against the Empire. At this point, the Emperor dissolved the Senate. Although the body had been reduced to a rubber-stamp agency years before, it continued to be a hotbed for dissent. By eliminating the Senate, Palpatine was acting to reduce collusion between leaders of different systems.
He seemed to have concluded the sheer strength and depth of personnel required to closely police all its territory would be impossible. Instead, a doctrine of fear would keep local system governments in line: Obey or be annihilated. This doctrine would be enforced using the Death Star, a battlestation with the unprecedented ability to wipe out a planet.
In order to fund the Death Star, the Empire began seizing (imperializing) properties and businesses from any individuals unfortunate enough to attract Imperial attention. Increases in tariffs and taxes also helped to pay for the Death Star project.
Fear leads to anger, as do taxes and seizures; anger leads to quiet disobedience whenever the Emperor's eyes look elsewhere. Covert support for the Rebellion increased dramatically, and the Rebels' military strength increased accordingly. Open warfare broke out across the million worlds of the Empire.
Then, in one blow, the second Death Star - roughly halfway complete four years after the destruction of the first - was destroyed, and with it went the Emperor, the Emperor's right hand, and a significant portion of senior staff and military officers. With the death of Palpatine came the death of the Empire; the only possible successor to the Emperor had been Darth Vader, and he, too, had perished.
Even had the Emperor survived, the loss of the second Death Star probably still would've crippled the Empire's public image. The Empire was already losing the war in the field of public opinion.
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