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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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Section I. Introduction: The Era of Empire


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The Era of Empire

“Make no mistake, those who are not willing to confront the past, will be unable to understand the present and unfit to face the future.”

—Bernard Lewis, FBA, The End of Modern History in the Middle East (2011)

The Era of Empire began in 1453 and ended in 1945. It was an era when European, Islamic, Chinese, and Russian empires engaged in a competition for global supremacy. They conquered, ruled, and subjugated the world’s land and people, and left behind indelible marks of their presence.

The Islamic Ottoman Empire instigated the competition. Muslim rulers had been besting Christendom, also known as Europe, for centuries. In 1453 the Ottomans added a coup de grace to centuries of humiliation by placing the final nail in the coffin of the Christian Byzantine Empire (330–1453). The Ottoman sultan poured salt into this wound by declaring himself the Master of Kings, an emperor of the world. Then came more salt. He instituted measures to curtail Europe’s overland access to the Silk Road and spice trade. This affected European lifestyles and their wallets.

The Ottomans provoked the Christian Russians too. Beginning in 1449 the Ottoman’s made Crimea a vassal state. The Crimean Khanate1 (1449–1783) became a slave entrepôt where an estimated 2 million white Christians, mostly Russian, were enslaved and sold in the Ottoman Empire. ← 7 | 8 →

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