This chapter outlines the political history of the Former Han empire (206 bce – 8 ce). It is divided into three sections. The first section will discuss the unlikely founding of the empire after the collapse of the Qin dynasty, and the administrative schizophrenia of the first decades of its rule. The second section focuses on the watershed reign of Emperor Wu (Han Wudi, r. 141–87 bce), which saw the consolidation and expansion of the empire. The third and final section focuses on the negotiation of Emperor Wu’s legacy in the last decades of the empire, culminating in the usurpation of the throne by Wang Mang (45 bce – 23 ce) in the year 9 ce.