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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 27. Western Europe


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For centuries Europe was a backwater compared to Asia. Europeans looked up to the progressive accomplishments taking place in China and the Middle East. In the 15th century that began to change. The Ottoman’s had motivated Europe to wake-up from its long slumber in the Middle Ages.

It was a powerful awakening. No empire/group played a more active role in the competition for global supremacy than Europe’s empires. They conquered and colonized more land and subjugated more people than any other empire/group. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, overseas conquests were centered in the New World, where sparsely populated, lightly fortified lands were easier prey than the more heavily populated, fortified lands in the Old World. That changed in the 19th century when nations in Europe became leaders in industrial revolutions driven by capitalism.

Economics was always a driver of empire expansion, but it moved to the fore as the primary driver of Europe’s empires. Profit-driven industrial capitalists were stoking interest in expansion, and there were plenty of profits to be made in the Old World. The 19th and 20th centuries saw Europe’s empires expanding all over Asia and Africa and engaging in the grandest battles ever fought on European turf. ← 255 | 256 →

The global reach and impact of Europe’s empires are why history courses around the world teach aspects of European history. Everyone’s history includes the presence and influence of Europe’s empires.

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