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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 17. Undoing Empire


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The transition from an era of empires to an era of nation-states was monumental and unprecedented. In the Era of Empire conquering armies and militias overpowered indigenous populations to extend political power across continents. Autocratic, repressive rule controlled economic resources and presided over hierarchies of discrimination. The characteristics of the Era of Nation-States were to be completely different. There would be dozens of relatively small independent nations with internationally recognized borders, and each would be committed to encouraging human rights and fundamental freedoms, refraining from the use of armed forces except in the “common interest,” acquiring power through economic growth, and respecting the sovereignty of every nation.

When the transition began in 1945 about a quarter of today’s nations were independent sovereigns. Most of these became independent in two waves between 1776 and 1945. Starting in 1945 there were four more waves.

Wave one took place between 1776 and 1829. When it began, there were already several independent nations, many of which also ruled empires, including China, Denmark, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. To secure independence in wave one you had to fight for it. Nineteen New World colonies in the Americas successfully waged wars for independence from the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese ← 149 | 150 → empires. One, the United States was part of ESNA; the rest were from Latam. When this wave ended, most independent nations were in the New...

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