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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 19. Sub-Saharan Africa


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All empires, except the Russian Empire, influenced the region of sub-Saharan Africa. China’s influence was minimal; it had some fleeting tributary relationships. The influence of Islamic empires came from local empires, like the Sokoto Caliphate (1804–1903), or the small empire ruled by Oman (MENA) in Zanzibar, which is today part of Tanzania. Traders from Islamic empires, and later Sufi Brotherhoods were also influential.

Except for Zanzibar, the only foreign empires directly ruling in this region during the Era of Empire were European, and by the late 19th century they virtually ruled the entire region.1 In the 15th century, Portugal became the first European colonizer. The Dutch, French, and Spanish had colonies by the 18th century, but most colonization took place in the late 19th century during Europe’s colonial carve-up of the region. After this the Belgians,2 British, Germans, and Italians were added to the region’s European colonizers.

Africa was the last frontier for Europe’s colonial empires. For most, colonial rule was less than eighty years, beginning in the late 19th century and ending in the 1960s and 1970s. However, empire-run slave trades and Christian missionaries added to the impacts of foreign empires on the region. The Arab and Atlantic slave trades began in the 7th and 15th centuries respectively, and Europe’s Christian missionaries began converting Africans in the 16th century. ← 173 | 174 →

Conversions to Christianity and Islam created some significant aftermaths. In...

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