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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 16. Postscripts: Aftermaths of Empire


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Aftermaths of Empire

For more than five hundred years, the prevailing wisdom was that global powers had colonial empires. This wisdom was dead. After 1945 no one was to maintain or increase power by subjugating people without their consent or forcibly commandeering land. It didn’t work out perfectly. Some empires had postscripts—they weren’t letting go.

There were no postscripts for WWII’s losing empires; these empires were dissolving. But, outside WWII conquests, these empires were small. It was the winning Allied Powers that added the postscripts, but not the United Kingdom or the United States. Postscripts from Islamic empire successor states came later.

British leaders knew their colonies were not ready for independence, but most rejected offers of help. They wanted immediate independence and received it when requested. Some British leaders may have liked to maintain the power and glory that accompanied ruling an empire where the sun never set, but they had to accept that their day in the sun had ended. Should they waver, reminders were everywhere. The public was demonstrably unsupportive of empire. Colonies had been justified as a means to help—to civilize—the less fortunate while being suitable investments for economic growth. In reality, most British colonies consumed cash and after WWII British subjects1 in Britain wanted investments to focus on rebuilding the United Kingdom. The ← 143 | 144 → British people had also come to see the civilization objective as farcical...

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