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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 6. WWI and WWII


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The late 19th-century characterization of the newly independent states on the Balkan Peninsula as a tinderbox was prescient. This was ground zero for WWI (1914–1919), where the Central Powers fought the Allied/Entente Powers. The primary Central Powers were the Austria-Hungary, Ottoman and German empires, and Bulgaria. Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans were hoping to ride on the coattails of the militarily and economically stronger German Empire, share the spoils of war and reverse the malaise or decline of their empires.

The Ottoman Empire’s position was curious. The French and British empires had been continuous, albeit at times overbearing, supporters of the Ottomans since the Crimean War (1853–1856), a war where the British and French prevented the loss of Ottoman territory to the Russian Empire. But the Allied Powers also included the Ottoman’s arch nemesis, the Russian Empire, and the Germans made the Ottomans an offer they could not refuse. The Kaiser wanted Muslims to engage in mass uprisings (jihad)1 in British, French and Russian colonies in Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.i In exchange for the Ottoman caliph declaring jihad against the Allied Powers the Germans bankrolled much of the costs for the Ottomans to fight the war and train their soldiers. ← 39 | 40 →

It was soon apparent that the caliph did not command the allegiance of the community of Muslims, let alone the Muslims in his empire. By 1916...

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