The Empire is a collection of lands and provinces that have culturally accepted the unity of Sigmar Heldenhammer. The popular “Old Worlder” view of the Empire is of vast, dark forests surrounded by impenetrable mountains, a land in which Humanity and other races exist within scattered islands of civilization and peer fearfully out from behind their walls at whatever dangers lurk in the shadows under trees.
There is some truth to this view, but, like any stereotype, it paints a picture with a very broad brush and oversimplifies a much more complex and varied situation.
The four “kindred” races of the Empire are: Humans, making up the bulk of the powerful and ruling classes, on which the WFRP is based; Dwarfs, the “second” people of the Empire; Elves, who do not see themselves as part of the Empire, and Halflings, a race that finds itself in all walks of life in the Empire.
Humans, according to Dwarf scholars existed as dominant tribes at least 1500 years before Sigmar Heldehammer unified them and formed the Empire when he defeated, with the dwarfs, the Great Orc Invasion. Some 50 years later, Sigmar abdicated the throne, and went off on adventures taking his mighty hammer with him, never to be seen again. 25 years after that the first cultist of Sigmar appeared, proclaiming him a God. 100 years later, the God, Sigmar, had risen to the top echelon of the Pantheon of Empire deities.
In the 2000+ years since the formation of Empire, the land has seen prosperity and turmoil in a never ending struggle to this very day.