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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 14. The Rise of Inter-Governmental Organizations: Aftermaths of Empire


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Aftermaths of Empire

The empires conquered and ruled thousands of tribal-ethnic groups, commonly combining multiple groups into administrative districts. Into these population mixtures could be added other diverse populations to meet labor needs and others geographically shifted for security reasons, for example, untrusted ethnic or religious communities. Upon independence, colonial borders became national borders, and diverse people became nationals1 in fledgling nations.

In 1814 a leading statesman in Europe, Count Metternich said that Italy was not a nation like England or France where people shared a common language, religion, and history. It was instead a geographical expression. In 1947 Chief Obafemi Awolowo called Nigeria, with its more than 240 ethnic groups, a mere geographical expression. After 1945, many new nations were resembling geographical expressions.

Governing diverse nationals lacking a common language, history, culture, or religion was a problem added to the to-do lists of national leaders that already included protecting fundamental freedoms for all and building nations with adequate infrastructure and institutions to deliver political and economic security. Colonies weren’t usually completely bereft of infrastructure and institutions, but the empires were not preparing colonies for independence. After 1945, even if empires wanted to help with nation-building, offers could be ← 125 | 126 → rejected by national leaders that gained support by bashing imperial powers: the very same leaders woefully unprepared for nation-building.

The leaders of new nations were not without sources...

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