Most Populous Modern-Day Countries in 1500 AD

Name the modern-day countries whose current territory had the highest population in the year 1500.
Estimates based on this map
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: December 17, 2019
First submittedSeptember 6, 2017
Times taken41,040
Average score78.9%
Rating4.96
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Population
Country
185 m
China
170 m
India
14 m
Japan
13 m
Bangladesh
13 m
France
12 m
Germany
11 m
Mexico
Population
Country
10 m
Indonesia
9 m
Italy
7 m
Nigeria
7 m
Pakistan
7 m
Peru
7 m
Russia
Population
Country
6 m
D.R. Congo
6 m
Spain
6 m
Turkey
5 m
Egypt
4 m
Poland
4 m
Ukraine
+8
Level 85
Sep 6, 2017
I took this quiz after the "First (modern-day) Countries to Reach 5 Million". Indonesia didn't make it, but the last 2 countries that made it didn't get to 5 million until 1600, while this quiz says in 1500 Indonesia was already at 10 million. Which is it?
+13
Level ∞
Sep 6, 2017
Good eye. Indonesia is missing from the other quiz. I'll fix that.
+6
Level 75
Feb 24, 2018
Similarly, isn't Iran missing from this quiz?
+15
Level ∞
Jun 3, 2019
Iran isn't missing. In pre-modern times, population levels often went down, especially when Steppe nomads rolled through your territory. Fun fact: The population of Iran was lower in 1500 AD than it was in 1 AD.
+4
Level 70
Sep 13, 2017
SURELY the UK had a population of more than 4 million!?
+15
Level ∞
Sep 14, 2017
Nope. It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that population growth in Britain went parabolic.
+3
Level ∞
Sep 14, 2017
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_England
+3
Level 41
Feb 25, 2018
The demography of England does not include the demography of the other constituent countries of the modern day UK. Might not make a big difference, but worth remembering that the UK and England are not the same thing.
+4
Level ∞
Jun 2, 2019
You are right. It doesn't make a big difference. A large majority of the UK population has always been in England.
+4
Level 72
Feb 3, 2021
With France at 14 million and the UK at under 4, it's amazing there wasn't a serious power imbalance at that time.
+10
Level 61
Oct 2, 2021
There was, but England was protected by the sea.
+12
Level 82
Feb 24, 2018
It did in the 1300s, but then black death happened. Took until around 1600 to get over 4 million again.
+8
Level 35
Feb 24, 2018
I'm very skeptical anyone knows how many people lived in the DRC in 1500.
+7
Level 82
Apr 5, 2018
The taxation system of the Kongo Kingdom would have meant an estimate was possible. Given taxation was head tax on each village, and that we have accounts of the finances of the Kingdom at the time, the population can be extrapolated from taxation revenues. Any such estimate would be imprecise, but more likely falls on the low rather than high side.
+10
Level 67
Nov 13, 2019
plus , time machine. Ow wait sorry, hasn't that been invented yet in 2019? My bad... nevermind... I didnt say anything..
+15
Level 38
Nov 14, 2019
We have to remember that many of the third world countries of today used to have pretty well formed social & authority structures before everything went sideways during the colonial era.
+3
Level 72
Oct 22, 2021
Very apt name Mx Rome, and yes civilisations from a very early time have had well-formed social & authority structures. That's how they controlled and exploited the masses. It didn't stop with the colonial era, and is yet to stop...
+2
Level 33
Feb 27, 2018
What about Thailand? If I'm not mistaken, they had one of the biggest cities of that time and probably so was the population on the whole.
+3
Level 82
Apr 5, 2018
I strongly suspect Colombia would have had more than 4 million in 1500. The Muisca Confederation had a population over 2 million at about that time and occupied only about 2% of the land area of modern Colombia. Inca territories spilled over into Colombia and many other nations such as the Tairona and Muso would have had significant populations - in the latter's case to the extent that they presented a military threat to the Muisca. However, I can't find a source to back up my suspicions.
+1
Level 65
Apr 23, 2018
19 first countries seems too random. Why not maake it to 20?
+3
Level ∞
Jun 3, 2019
Because it's a multi-way tie for 20th. We'd have to add a lot more countries.
+7
Level 67
Nov 13, 2019
I think 20 is way too random. Why not make it 23?
+1
Level 61
Nov 13, 2019
With 18/19 guessed and one second to go I thought "oh god, it's going to be Bangladesh" and what do you know, it was Bangladesh. 2 seconds earlier and I would have had it!
+1
Level 7
Apr 5, 2020
Mexiko? Im Poland 25level
+1
Level 50
Oct 8, 2020
*Mexico
+1
Level 19
Oct 22, 2021
Thats how you say it in polish
+2
Level 59
Jul 20, 2020
India , Pakistan , Bangladesh had to be exact census in that part of the world as Pakistan and Bangladesh didn't come into being until post ww2
+1
Level 65
Nov 4, 2021
I'm not sure but it may be possible to get rough estimates based on regional censuses if there are any.
+1
Level 55
Oct 5, 2020
I completely forgot about the Inca and the aztecs
+4
Level 72
Feb 3, 2021
Still kind of freaky that you can add ALL these countries together except for China and have the population of just the US today.
+2
Level 66
Oct 22, 2021
Missed a couple, read them at the end and read Peru as Palau. That would have completely surprised me.
+3
Level 72
Oct 22, 2021
Pretty fun, but at the same time the data is inevitably such a broad estimate that the whole quiz rings a bit hollow for me.
+1
Level 57
Oct 22, 2021
I would have guessed countries like Iran and Thailand, surprised
+3
Level 84
Oct 22, 2021
Iran would make it on 500, 1000, or 1500 years before this quiz. And after this date, especially after 1900 or so, it would start to catch up again. But in 1500 it had fallen behind.
+2
Level 74
Oct 25, 2021
There is enough time to guess your way to all of these answers.
+1
Level 32
Dec 8, 2021
i missed nigeria and ukraine! i swear i typed nigeria >:(