Comparative International Systems

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International relations is usually discussed as the history of the so called ”Westphalian” system. This is the international system established in Europe in the wake of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648. The Westphalian system is based on state sovereignty, on anarchical relations between states, and on constant threats of war. From this perspective the history of international relations is the story of how the European way of organizing relations between states gradually expanded to take over the whole world. Today we all live in one great Westphalian system.

And yet, historically speaking, there have been several other international systems that were not based in Europe, and which are not best characterized by sovereignty, anarchy and war. This course focuses on the most prominent of these alternatives: the East Asian international system, the Mongols khanates, the Muslim caliphates, India, Africa and the Americas. By discussing the logic and nature of these alternatives, the course provides a history of international relations from a non-European point of view.

In a world which isn’t West-centric and fixated on European history, this course would not be required.  In a better world you would have learned all this at a far younger age.  You would have learned about world history already in elementary school.  This, we can presume, did not happen — and if it did, congratulations to you. Differently put, what this course offers is remedial education.  As such the information is very basic.  We will be dealing with simple facts, fundamental trends, important actors and years.  Apologies if you feel condescended to.  It is not you who are stupid, blame your previous teachers.  At least now you are in the right place.  Better learn something late than never.

Study hard, have fun.

Erik