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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Chapter 5. The United States


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The United States was not a competitor for empire. So why is it covered here along with the behemoth Chinese, European, Islamic and Russian empires?

The United States predecessor, the Thirteen Colonies, was part of the British Empire from 1607 to 1776. In 1776 it became the first overseas colony of any empire to declare and permanently keep its status as an independent nation-state. American history during the Era of Empire is the tale of a fledgling start-up nation that defied conventions and became a world power with a strength comparable to an empire. Some say it became an empire, and others say if it was, it was a puny empire.1

Some actions interpreted as empire-like could be explained as defensive measures to expand the reach of their borders to prevent empire conquests or re-conquests. Many nations did the same for the same reason, including Tsardom Russia, China, Spain, Canada, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, China, and Saudi Arabia. Americans were under no illusions that the perpetually warring empires of Europe and Russia were going to permit the wobbly United States sitting on a vast store of unknown potential the chance to live in peace. National leaders decided the best offense was a good defense. A belief permeated the United States that it had a Manifest Destiny to expand its borders from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and south to the...

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