Contemporaries and historians alike have explained the imperialism of interwar Japan, Italy, and Germany through the paradigm of a 'new world order'. This article critically revisits this received assumption by analysing the place of the Axis in the longer history of imperialism from the late nineteenth century to the Second World War. If we cast Axis empires - a blend of fascism and imperialism - in the larger framework constituted by the relationship between the nation and capital, it becomes clear that they were not so much the result of the peculiar national histories of Japan, Italy, and Germany, but products of larger, global forces. Through an examination of recent scholarship, this article offers a new conceptual interpretation of the link between imperialism and fascism. In so doing, it adds to our understanding of the interwar period by breaking down the neat boundaries between liberal and fascist world orders.