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History of IR: Emergence of the International State System

Unit 1 Studying International Relations

a. How do you understand International Relations: Levels of Analysis

b. History of IR: Emergence of the International State System

c. Pre-Westphalia and Westphalia d. Post-Westphalia



International Relations

  • People have tried to make sense of world politics for centuries, and especially so since the separate academic discipline of International Politics was formed in 1919 when the Department of International Politics was set up at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

  • Interestingly, the individual who set up that department, a Welsh industrialist called David Davies, saw its purpose as being to help prevent war

  • Various theories emerged to explain word politics.

  • These are: realism on the power relations between states, liberalism on a much wider set of interactions between states and non-state actors.

  • The first three of these theoretical perspectives, realism, liberalism, and Marxism, have tended to be the main theories that have been used to understand world politics, with constructivism and poststructuralism becoming increasingly influential since the mid-1990s and postcolonialism gaining some influence in the 2000s.

The emergence of a global system of states

  • Formation of international Political System: 1500-1900

  • Emergence of the State System in Europe

  • Feudalism: System in which individuals received land and other benefits for swearing loyalty to high ranking leader.

  • State formed in failure of failed efforts of leaders to establish imperial order over all of Europe.

  • Religious conflict amongst countries a thirty years war

  • Peace of Westphalia(1648): Treaty that divided Europe into sovereign states independent of higher authorities.

  • Concert of Europe(1814): Congress amongst European five powers to maintain order a failed on many grounds to resolve disputes

European Pursuit of Foreign Empire

  • Mercantilism: Military power is the central goal of the state attained through wealth a imperial and colonial expansion.

  • Transatlantic slave trade or ‘Rum Triangle’

  • American Revolution supported by France against the British overspending of the France revolution and over throw of monarchy Napoleon expands Congress of Vienna 1815: Africa is divided into demarcated territories between European powers.

  • Meiji Restoration: selective adaptation of western science, education, industrial technology to boost economy and military to resist Western encroachment.

WWI and WWII: 1900-1945

World War 1 Causes:
  • Changes in capabilities if war did come, rather fight in the near term before loss of economic or technologic capabilities

  • Concert of Europe alliances made other countries suspicious made other countries suspicious

  • Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy

  • Triple Entente: France, Britain, Russian Germany Kaiser William II abdicates

  • Austria-Hungary surrenders and Germany requests armistice

Treaty of Versailles:

  • An attempt was made at Paris Peace conference in 1919 to establish just world order. But the treaty was drafted by victors and Germany was told to sign it. Germany raised many objections.

  • But France had taken its revenge, Germany was deprived of all its overseas colonies.

  • The treaty of Versailles had imposed humiliating conditions on the Central powers and sowed the seeds of the Second World War.

Woodrow Wilson:

  • Woodrow Wilson set forth his plan for a "JUST PEACE." Wilson believed that fundamental flaws in international relations created an unhealthy climate that led inexorably to the World War.

  • National self-determination dismantling of empires i.e. Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, Russia.

  • His FOURTEEN POINTS outlined his vision for a safer world.

  • Wilson called for an end to secret diplomacy, a reduction of armaments, and freedom of the seas.

  • He claimed that reductions to trade barriers, fair adjustment of colonies, and respect for national self-determination would reduce economic and nationalist sentiments that lead to war.

  • Finally, Wilson proposed an international organization comprising representatives of all the world's nations that would serve as a forum against allowing any conflict to escalate.

  • Unfortunately, Wilson could not impose his world view on the victorious Allied Powers. When they met in Paris to hammer out the terms of the peace, the European leaders had other ideas.

League of Nations

  • States provided with legal/institutional framework to avoid war.

  • an organization for international cooperation established on January 10, 1920, at the initiative of the victorious Allied powers at the end of World War I.

  • The terrible losses of World War I produced, as years went by and peace seemed no nearer, an ever-growing public demand that some method be found to prevent the renewal of the suffering and destruction which were now seen to be an inescapable part of modern war.

  • The League of Nations (1920 – 1946) was the first intergovernmental organization established “to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security”.

  • It is often referred to as the “predecessor” of the United Nations.

  • Some responsibilities were assigned to the League by other international instruments, such as the peace treaties signed in Paris.

The Interwar Period: Failed Global Reconstruction-

Weimar Republic

  • The Weimar Republic was Germany’s government from 1919 to 1933, the period after World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany.It is sometimes referred to as Weimar Germany.

  • The Weimar Republic began to take shape at the end of World War I. Years of war, economic deprivation and starvation brought about the German Revolution and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

  • The Weimar Republic began as a bold experiment in constitutional and representative government. Its creators sought to create a modern liberal democracy in a nation that had known only militarism and authoritarian monarchy.

  • The Weimar Republic is of great significance to historians and history students alike. It demonstrates how democracy can fail when it is too ambitious and when internal forces work against it.

  • France still distrustful maintains strict reparation payments when Germany fails to pay France incites the Ruhr Crisis work stoppages wages paid by printing of money hyperinflation.

  • Dawes Plan came in 1924 US mediation for France to withdraw from Ruhr valley, and international bank to lend Germany money.

  • In 1925, European leaders held extended negotiations in Locarno, Switzerland that produced better results than Genoa meeting. These Locarno conferences led to a series of treaties that ended disagreements about the location of German, Belgian, and French borders. These three nations decided to accept existing boundaries. The Locarno agreements left many international problems unsettled.

World War 2 Causes

  • Rise of dictatorship in Italy and Germany.

  • Germany, Italy and Japan were the Axis Powers which had pursued the expansionist policy during the inter-war period.

  • Failure of Disarmament, the task of preparing a plan for reduction of armaments was entrusted to the League of Nation.

  • The Problem of National Minorities ,the US President Wilson had advocated the concept of self-determination but his principle could not be implemented on various occasions.

  • England and France ignored the acts of aggression by Germany and Italy and succumbed to their pressure.

  • Weakness of league of nations, the Axis powers committed acts of aggression due to the fact that England and France followed the policy of appeasement towards the axis powers.

  • UK and Poland sign a peace treaty after Germany invades more Czechoslovakian land.

  • Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact is signed invade and partition Poland.

  • UK and France declare war on Germany.

  • Germany occupies Western Europe, unleashes surprise attack against USSR. USSR, France, UK, and USA now too push back German troops and Hitler commits suicide.

  • Pacific Theatre of WWII: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

Global Struggle of the Cold War: 1945- 1989

  • United Nation established to maintain postwar peace.

  • Europe loses capacity and legitimacy for maintaining rule over colonies.

  • German divided into four occupation zones between US, UK, USSR, France.

Origins & End Of the Cold War

  • The crisis in Europe grew into a global confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union known as the "Cold War."

  • Aggressive expansionism US compelled to establish containment (employs diplomacy economic assistance and military power to counter the effort of a supposedly adversary state)

  • The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were the steps to save the European Continent from further Communist influence.

  • The Soviet Union also initiated the Molotov Plan and established the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. These moves and counter-moves constituted the beginning of the Cold War.

  • The Marshall Plan was an extension of the principle underlying the Truman Doctrine.

  • In order to check Russian supremacy and influence, Britain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, etc. signed the Treaty of Brussels in March 1948.

  • The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4 April 1949 by the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The NATO was a defensive organization.

  • USA hostile towards USSR even before WWII see armed intervention of USA in 1918 and 1920 against Bolshevik.

  • USSR wanted to maintain a sphere of influence rather than employ aggressive expansionism.

  • USA wanted to contain USSR to maintain a world friendly to private capitalism to preserve US economic prosperity

  • Misunderstandings about security dilemmas both superpowers feared their power being compromised by the other. Alternatively, the Cold war was inevitable because of the logic of bipolarity (International system driven by the competition of two equally powerful states.

  • Like the NATO, the SEATO (1954) was born out of Communist fear. Its object was to put a stop to the further spread of Communist influence in South-East Asia.

  • he Baghdad Pact was an attempt by the Western Powers to form an anti-Soviet bloc in the Middle East. This Pact was signed in 1955 between Turkey and Iraq. Later on, Britain, Pakistan and Iran joined it.

  • On 4 May 1955, the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany signed the Warsaw Pact.

  • The United States proclaimed the Eisenhower Doctrine on 5 March 1957 by which the Truman Doctrine was extended to the Middle East.

  • Growing prominence of nuclear weaponry Mutually Assured destruction of both superpowers if war is declared ,this concept is known as Balance of power, Instead of direct conflict, both superpowers engaged in proxy wars.

  • The Cold War was at its height at the time of the Cuban crisis in 1962.

  • Korean war, In the first major conflict since the end of World War 2, a crisis occurred in the Korean peninsula when Communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea.

  • Vietnam War, The US intervened in the Vietnam crisis in 1965 by sending troops to aid South Vietnam in its fight against communist North Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the USSR and China.

Disintegration of USSR

  • USSR had bureaucratic and authoritarian system.

  • Gorbachev instills perestroika and glasnost allows the formation of opposition parties and criticism of the soviet government

  • Democratic elections spread to countries within the Soviet union. Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia break free of the Soviet union and in 1991 ,USSR collapses.

  • USSR economic bankruptcy exposed.

  • Dominance of Russia; neglect of the interests of other republics.

  • High expenditure on defense, low on infrastructure and technology.

Major Events occurred due to USSR fall

  • Fall of berlin wall

  • Many protested against their own govt and crises emerged in socialist bloc.

  • Boris Yeltsin who won popular election in Russian Republic, protested against the coup and central control of USSR.

  • Republics like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus emerged powerful. They declared that the soviet union was disbanded. Thus lead to power shift in international system.

Frenchman Fukuyama in his book “The End of History and the Last Man” referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as the ‘end of history’. Francis Fukuyama argues that “with the ascendancy of Western liberal democracy—which occurred after the Cold War (1945–1991) and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991)—humanity has reached “not just" the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: That is, the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

View From South

  • Most of the Asian & African countries were being decolonized.

  • The process accelerated after WWII as European powers suffer from decimated economies and legitimacy.

  • Spread of nationalism(intense political identify shared amongst a certain group of people.

  • These newly independent country made their way by joining NAM.

  • The Non-Aligned Movement and Pressure for a New International Economic Order. ‘Third World’ states wished to be non-aligned from both USA and USSR.

  • NAM: movement founded in 1955 by countries some are now emerging economies, other have fallen into humanitarian crisis.


Contemporary International Order: 1989-Present

  • From the Unipolar Era to the Return of Great Power Politics.

  • Globalization and its Discontents and the Prevalence of International Terrorism.

  • Contemporary world has alternative centers of power.

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