INTRODUCTION This paper begins by outlining the definitions and what exactly is meant by international relations. Secondly, it tells the story of how and why the study of international relations emerged when it did, during the course of modern history.
Even though, the history and the origins of this discipline alone does not reveal everything we need to know about how international relations functions in this day and age, it certainly would help us to understand the legacy left behind by this study’s original purpose, international gains and calamities, and by its traditional schools of thought; explanations starting from the time of the Great Powers, to the French Revolution, the first of the alliances, the Industrial revolution, the two World Wars along with the consequent Cold War, the formed international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, and finally, to where international relations stands today.
The final outcome of this paper is to create a detailed understanding on the readers mind on how international relations developed into what it at present is – a science, or rather a field of study – during the course of the modern history, starting from the 16th century. WHAT IS INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS? International relations is a field of study that seeks to understand a variety of global issues, foreign affairs and the interactions of nations and states within the international system. International relations draw upon its expertise from a variety of other fields such as social science, including geography, history, sociology, political science, economics, law, etc…
It is therefore a challenging field to master due to its both diverse and complex nature. Strictly defined, the field of International Relations (IR) concerns the relationships among the world’s governments. However, these so called world’s governments or in other words nation states, alone cannot regulate the events taking place in international arena. They in fact are connected or rather influenced by other actors, namely, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) along with other social structures such as economics, cultural differences and ideology. Furthermore, the study of nternational relations has always been heavily influenced by normative considerations, such as the goal of reducing armed conflict and increasing international cooperation. International relations are an exceptionally important aspect of citizenship in a global society. As our world becomes smaller and smaller through communication technology, speedy air transportation and a complex international economy and interactions, the value of peaceful and cooperative relationships between nations is increasingly important. HISTORY The concept of international relations on some level is probably quite old, given that humans have been establishing governments and communicating with each other for thousands of years.
Aspects of international relations have been studied for thousands of years, since the time of Thucydides, but IR became a separate and definable discipline in the early 20th century. However, many people agree that international relations truly began to emerge around the 15th century – the dawn of the modern era – when people started exploring the world and interacting with other governments and cultures. THE TREATY OF WESTPHALIA (1648) The modern international system is often dated from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established the principles of independent, sovereign stated that continue to shape the international system today. Many even consider this treaty, also knows as the Peace of Westphalia as the birth of international relations as a field of study.
The Treaty of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabruck and Munster, Germany. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic. These treaties resulted from a big diplomatic assembly, thus initiating a new system of political order in central Europe, between the Hapsburg alliance (Austria-Hungury and Spain) and the Protestant countries (France, Britain, Sweden). Later it was called by many parties as the Westphalian sovereignty. The key factor to this ystem was the ability of one state to balance the power of another state so that it could not obtain power of smaller units and create a universal empire, thereby forming a relationship between the many nations within the European terrain. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1789 – 1799) The French Revolution (1789–1799), was a period of drastic social and political turmoil in France and one that had a major impact not only on France but also throughout the rest of Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed within a mere three year period. However, 5 directors established control of the French state in 1795 and held power until 1799, when it was replaced by the Consulate under Napoleon Bonaparte. Meanwhile, by the nearing end of the 18th century Britain’s power multiplied due to industrialization along with its rival at the time, France.
What was once the great powers in Europe and the adjacent terrain were by this era beginning to decline, namely Sweden, Netherlands and the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, nations such as Russia and then followed by Prussia (the forerunner of modern-day Germany) also developed in to major players or rather great powers. THE NAPOLEANIC WARS (1803 – 1815) The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of wars declared against Napoleon’s French Empire by opposing coalitions. The underlying causes for these Napoleonic Wars took place due to many reasons. For one thing, the French Revolution inspired a desire among the French to export the ideals of freedom, equality and union. As a result, neighboring monarchs, especially the British Empire, found this very threatening.
Napoleon happened to be both brilliant and energetic in defending the state from its enemies. Eventually, the dynamics of war and the changes in revolutionary spirit made Napoleon King of France and the territories he had conquered. Now he became a different kind of threat as he wanted to maintain his popularity and control in France through conquest of neighboring states. Thereby France, a single, very powerful European state was regarded as a threat to world stability and had to be put down. One way or the other France was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by an alliance of Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Prussia.
Nevertheless, Europe’s’ supreme, the British empire realizing the threat that another challenging nation (the Napoleon’s empire) could bring upon, and therefore established an alliance with fellow European nations in 1815 named as the Congress of Vienna. THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA (1814 – 1815) The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by the Austrian statesman and held in Vienna from November 1814 to June 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. This is to date considered as one of the first the most prominent alliances, or a series of relations between nations in the history of international relations. THE CONCERT OF EUROPE (1815 – 1914)
The Convert of Europe was the balance of power that existed in Europe from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the outbreak of World War I (1914). Its founding powers were Austria, Prussia, the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom, the members of the Quadruple Alliance which was responsible for the downfall of the First French Empire. However, in time France was established as a fifth member of the concert. The Concert of Europe, however, is closely connected to the congress of Vienna. It was the balance of power that existed in Europe from the fall of Napoleon in 1815 to the beginning of the First World War. THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (1760 – 1830) The term Industrial Revolution is normally reserved for a set of events that took place in Britain roughly from 1760 to 1830.
The historical events in question consisted of a set of technological, economic, and social changes that in the long run revolutionized not just the British economy but that of the rest of Western Europe, North America, and eventually much of the rest of the world. For Instance, The industrial Revolution sparked in Britain with the invention of the steam engine in 1769. Wooden sailing ships were discontinued in production. Instead, the manufacturing of larger and faster coal powered iron steamships took its place. These accomplishments put Britain as the leading role in world’s economy along with two other competitors; USA from the west ; Japan from East.
These developments in the fields of marine, road going and rail roads not only increased the world production and trade but also tied distant locations more closely together more faster and more economically. Furthermore, Britain dominated world trade in this period due to its advancement in technology was way above par at the time. Thus, it products met massive competition and as a result British Policy tend to favor free trade. The United Stated nevertheless overtook the British in terms of economy by the end of the 19th century, despite the fact that they suffered greatly during the great depression. However the United States government’s role in the economy intensified during World War II.
By the dawn of the 20th century not only the British but also the United States and Japan were in the process of selling their merchandise in foreign land, and this to economically, industrially and socially influenced the field of international relations immensely. THE TWO WORLD WARS (1900 – 1950) The twentieth century saw the lights of two unfortunate World Wars. World War I took place during 1914 to 1918 and World War II, during the period of 1939 to 1945, together occupying a decade of the 21st century. Unlike a conventional war between two nations these two world wars were global or hegemonic wars in which almost all major states participated in an all out struggle over the future of the international system. WORLD WAR I (1914 – 1918)
World War I was a global war centered in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. This war is one which symbolizes the tragic irrationality of war. It was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until the start of World War II in 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter. It involved all the world’s great powers. It involves the almost all the worlds great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (originally centered around the Triple Alliance of Germany,
Austria-Hungary and Italy; but, as Austria–Hungary had taken the offensive against the agreement, Italy did not enter into the war). Although the participating great powers made plans for a quick, offensive and rapid victory – what has been called the cult of offensive, the war was neither short nor decisive. In fact scholars indicate it was a catastrophic war that was unnecessary and perhaps even accidental. Russia happened to be the first nation state to crumble as Revolution at home made it retreat from war in 1917. The revolution eventually let to the founding of the Soviet Union. Further, the entry of the United States on to the war turned the tables upside down for Germany.
The Triple Alliance was consequently defeated by the United Kingdom, France and Russia which saw the end of the 1st World War. THE TREATY OF VERSALLIES (1919) The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. The treaty was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (which was a reason for the occurrence of the world war). At the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to give up territory, pay reparations, limit its future armaments and most importantly admit to guilt of the war, while the other Central Powers on the German side of World War I were dealt with in separate treaties.
Even thought the treaty was agreed upon, the German resentment against the harsh terms of the Versaillian treaty would contribute to the German aggression in the mid 1930’s and later on, during the course of World War II. THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS (1920 – 1946) Witnessing the painful experience in World War I, at the time US president, Woodrow Wilson, along with other idealistic mindsets placed their hopes for peace in the newly formed League of Nations. The League of Nations (abbreviated as LN in English, and SDN in its other official languages), was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first international organization whose primary and principal mission was to maintain world peace.
Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members. Yet, the League lacked its own armed force and depended on the Great Powers to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. However, the Great Powers were often reluctant to do so. After a number of notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 1930s.
Germany withdrew from the League, as did Japan, Italy, Spain and others. The onset of World War II showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. The United Nations or the UN (which would be discussed later on) replaced it after the end of the war and inherited a number of agencies and organizations founded by the League. WORLD WAR II (1939 – 1945) World War II, or the Second World War was a global war that was underway by 1939 and ended in 1945. It involved a vast majority of the world’s nations – including all of the great powers – eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies (U. S. Britain, France, Soviet Union, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia) and the Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria). It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units. In a state of “total war”, the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it resulted in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities. These deaths make World War II by far the deadliest conflict in all of human history.
Even though, the Empire of Japan was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany, and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire. Germany therefore set out to establish a large empire in Europe. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or subdued much of continental Europe. Later on however, the nominally neutral Soviet Union fully or partially invaded, occupied and annexed territories of its six European neighbors, including Poland. As a result the United Kingdom remained the only major force continuing the fight against the Axis, with battles taking place in North Africa as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic.
In June 1941, the European Axis launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history, which tied down the major part of the Axis’ military forces for the rest of the war. In December 1941, the Empire of Japan, which aimed to dominate East Asia and Indochina, joined the Axis, attacked the United States and European territories in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the West Pacific. The advancement of the Axis nations were stopped in 1942, after Japan lost a series of marine battles and German troops were defeated in North Africa and followed by, at Stalingrad. In 1943, with a series of German defeats in Eastern Europe, the Allied invasion of Fascist Italy, and American victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts.
Meanwhile in 1944, the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies. The war in Europe ended with the capture of Berlin by Soviet and Polish troops and subsequently the Germans fell into surrender on 8 May 1945. After two devastating nuclear bombing n Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war in Asia ended on 15 August 1945 when the Empire of Japan agreed to surrender. Thereby, victory of the Ally nations over the Axis in 1945 ended the conflict. World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. THE UNITED NATIONS (1945 – Present) The United Nations was established to encourage international cooperation and prevent future conflicts.
The great powers that were the know as victors in the war – nations such as the United States, Soviet Union, China, United Kingdom & France – became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The United Nations is in fact an international organization whose original aims were regard to facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace. Founded in 1945 after World War II it went to replace the League of Nations, in hopes to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. So far the United Nations has been successful in preventing a third World War, which otherwise would probably mean nuclear warfare & consequent destruction of the world.
Furthermore, the United Nations proclaims to consist of 193 member states, which includes every sovereign state in the world with the exception of Vatican City. Nevertheless, this forming of this organization is known to be the biggest and the most successful alliance between nations in the history of International Relations. THE COLD WAR (1945 – 1889) The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, creating a bipolar world and setting the stage for the Cold War. The cold war lasted for the next 46 years and each of them had its own ideology, its collection of alliances, third world consumers and a deadly armory of nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the influence of European great powers started to decline, while the decolonization of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to stabilize post war relations between fellow nations. In addition, the United States forged NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a military alliance using suppression of communism and encouraging capitalism as a main strategy in 1949, while the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Some countries aligned with either of these 2 superpowers, whilst others chose to remain as Non-Aligned Movement.
The Cold War was named likewise as it never featured direct military action, since both sides possessed nuclear weapons, and its use would result in mass destruction. However these two parties’ third world allies fell victim to s streak of devastating wars, namely, the Korean War (1950–1953), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989), the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (1983), and the “Able Archer” NATO military exercises (1983). However, by 1991 the cold war came to an end as the Soviet Union collapsed and reformed in to 12 different states.
In the 1980s, the United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation. In 1991 occurred the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the dominant military power, and leaving behind a resulting uni-polar world. Nevertheless, the Cold War and its events have left a significant legacy, a huge impact and a rather solid attitude towards the functions of International Relations. The aftermath of Cold War conflict, however, is not always easily erased, as many of the economic and social tensions that were exploited to energize Cold War competition in parts of the Third World remain sensitive.
In Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War has ushered in an era of economic growth while in other parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, independence was accompanied by state failure. SCOPE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS TODAY The scope of international relations has greatly expanded in modern times. Initially international relations concerned only upon the study of contemporary foreign affairs with a view to draw certain lessons. Later on emphasis began to be laid on the study of both foreign affairs and international law and international relations began to be studied within the framework of international law. The field of the study of international relations was further widened with the establishment of the League of Nations after the First World War and the study of international organizations and institutions.
The scope of international relations in the post World War II period got further widened due to significant changes which took place, with the emergence of USA and USSR as two superpowers; the entry of a large number of non-European states into the society of nations; the threat and danger of nuclear warfare; increasing interdependence of states and rising expectations of the people in the under developed third world, etc… CONCLUTION It is in this way quite evident that world history, especially modern world history plays a major role in the development of International Relations as a field of study. Although initial events indicate that war held prominence in international affairs, things were prone to change with the spark of the industrial era and the rapid globalization of the world economy.
It is also evident that greater importance began to be placed on scientific study of international relations, which led to development of new methodologies and introduction of new theories in the study of international relations. It is therefore in this way quite clear that all in the recent past, the present and in the future, the scope of International Relations will be thoroughly important for the functions carried out in the international arena. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Goldstein, Joshua S. International Relations, Sixth Edition. Pearson Education Inc. and Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc. 2005: 29 [ 3 ]. Columbia Encyclopedia: international relations [ 4 ]. Goldstein, Joshua S. International Relations, Sixth Edition.
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