A nearly five-hundred year old totalitarian state, the Galactic Empire encompasses most of the human colony worlds within the galaxy, including Earth. Ruled by a Kaiser, or Emperor, the Empire was structured around a rigid feudal system that lasted all the way to the end of the Goldenbaum Dynasty. When Reinhard von Lohengramm ascended to the throne, founding the Goldenlohen Dynasty, he abolished the caste system and instigated a number of civic and military reforms, granting the citizenry freedoms they had not held for five centuries.
Founded in the first Imperial Year, when Rudolph von Goldenbaum declared himself Emperor (or Kaiser), the early Galactic Empire was a brutal place, where the citizens were kept in order through fear. The most infamous example of Rudolph's harsh societal reforms was the Inferior Genes Exclusion Act, which enabled the mass-sterilization of the handicapped, the murder of the mentally ill, and eventually became used to justify the creation of a police-state, where any form of government protest could and would be met with imprisonment, exile, or execution.
Rudolph's successor, Kaiser Sigismund I, was instrumental in consolidating the Empire's power, and firmly establishing as the de facto government of all human territories. Though there was still widespread discontent among the Empire's population, mostly among the lower classes, most people were simply too terrified to openly act against their oppressors. This fear ensured the Empire's survival through a string of grossly incompetent rulers, to the point where the aristocracy obtained so much power over the people that revolution --change of any kind, really-- was little more than an impossible dream. As the nobility tightened its grip on Imperial Power, they gradually abolished the process of promotion. At one point, commoners who sufficiently proved their value or ability could be elevated to the ranks of nobility (or could even purchase a title, if their merits were insufficient to the task). This allowed for a degree of upward social mobility in Imperial Society, giving hope to even the lowest social classes that, through hard work, they could make a better life for themselves. Naturally, the High Nobles, increasingly inferior to the men from whom they inherited their titles, were wary of any competition. Within a century, such hopes were futile. Imperial society --art, politics, literature, music-- entered into a long period of stagnation.
In Imperial Year 164, an Imperial Citizen, Arle Heinnesen, was stripped of his citizenship and reduced in status to a serf. It is unknown whether this loss of status was the result of some crime or political vendetta. Heinnesen was sent to a labor camp in the Altair star system, where he promptly organized his fellow serfs in a revolt against their Imperial lords. Ultimately, Heinnesen and 400,000 other Imperial citizens decided to leave the Empire rather than fight against it. Their Exodus Fleet discovered the Iserlohn Corridor, and founded a democratic government, the Free Planets Alliance, on the planet Heinnesen.
For nearly 150 years, the Empire was unaware of the Free Planets Alliance. In Imperial Year 331, however, they encountered an FPA fleet. Decrying the FPA to be rebels, mounting an insurrection against the throne, Kaiser Friedrich III dispatched an Imperial Fleet under the command of Grand Duke Herbert through the Iserlohn Corridor to invade the Free Planets Alliance. From the time of Rudolph I, the Empire had been undefeated in battle. Since the reign of Sigismund I, the Empire had never faced any legitimate threats to its authority. The High Nobles of the Empire naturally assumed that their invasion of the FPA would be no different--and were stunned when the FPA fleet, under the command of Admiral Lin Pao, defeated the Imperial Fleets and Grand Duke Herbert was driven insane by the battle.
By Imperial Year 489, the Galactic Empire was estimated to have a population over 100 billion. In the last census before the war it was 80 billion. Before the exodus of part of Galactic Empire population to the Alliance it was at 55 billion. Growing to over 120 billion during the century and a half encompassing the Empire-Alliance war.
Much like the historical feudalism, galactic nobles administrate their own fiefdoms. High nobles like Otto von Braunschweig own numerous planets. Political power either comes directly from the kaiser, or a high noble. In the latter case, a property dispute would be settled between two houses either by negotiation or a duel. Upward mobility is possible, but depends on marriage or an exchange of favors. A commoner can politically advance if their military career earns enough merit. Such a soldier, upon retirement, may be awarded a title or civilian position close to their sponsor noble.
Since breeding was the biggest factor in one's social status, Imperial society bent itself in favor of nobility. In the military, high nobles were almost always promoted for the sake of being nobility. Fleet commanders were such because of their blood and not because of capabilty. Low nobles and commoners simply had to appease a given high noble to progress in life. Because high nobles and commanding officers often used bribery and embezzling, company grade officers likewise resorted to such tactics. High nobles also felt entitled to steal from the empire to pursue their own selfish interests.
The Empire saw numerous democratic reforms upon the ascension of the 37th Kaiser, Erwin Joseph II, to the throne.