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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 18. Epilogue


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Shifting the world from a configuration of empires to nation states is the most ambitious endeavor ever undertaken by humans. Before this, the most ambitious was a 500-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic and European empires. Grasping the essentials of these two truly unprecedented ventures is key to securing context that can simplify understanding the world where we live.

For hundreds of years the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires dictated the directions of the world. They controlled commerce and the factors of production, shifted and ordered populations like pawns on a chessboard, and applied aggression without sufficient forethought to the consequences. Repression, discrimination, and persecution were pervasive. This draconian era in history came to a close in 1945. The agreed upon plan for replacing it spelled motherhood and apple pie. Execution relied on UN members, and very importantly the five permanent members of the Security Council, adhering to commitments in the UN Charter. Most did not.

Before the Charter’s unanimous approval in 1945 there were blatant signs that the Soviet Union had no intention of abandoning empire. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact negotiated on behalf of Stalin and Hitler may have contained a secret land agreement, but the Soviet’s overt meddling in Central Europe while an Allied Power was not a secret. Lands were being prepared for ← 153 | 154 → annexation. Radio stations were commandeered to broadcast Soviet propaganda, and trained secret police were installed.i...

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