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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 22. Southeast Asia


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All empires/groups influenced Southeast Asia, but most rule was indirect until the 19th century. The Chinese Empire exacted tribute until the 19th century. The Islamic empires exerted indirect influence through Arab-Muslim traders, Indian-Muslim traders, and Muslim rulers beginning in the 7th, 12th and 14th centuries respectively. The Soviet’s rule was also indirect, but this was in the 20th century when they supported communist parties and their Vietnamese client (1978–1988).

It was only the European and Japanese empires that exercised direct rule in this region, and for the Japanese, it was in the form of war-time occupations. Between 1520 and 1800 the Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish established colonial settlements in East Timor, Indonesia, and the Philippines respectively.1 In the 19th century, the British and French colonized the rest of the region excluding Thailand. However, all European empires lost control of their colonies when they failed to defend them from Japanese conquests and Thai annexations during WWII. This failure diminished the perceptions colonials had for their imperial protectors.

A long and diverse history with empires and long periods of little or no direct empire rule explains why the nations in this region share so little in common when it comes to politics and religion. This is the only region with a mix of atheist, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim majority nations, and a mix ← 219 | 220 → of political systems that include democracies and autocracies, of which the latter...

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