World History as Global Politics




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Introduction to Global Politics


Introduction to Global Politics is designed to give a critical historical perspective on modern global politics. This is accomplished by reflecting on two key themes and evaluating them through concrete examples of current issues in global politics.


First there is the theme is history as global politics where we consider the origins of the current global system: when did the modern international system originate? Was it in 1492 with the European ‘discoveries’ which for the first time linked up all the major civilizations? Was it in 1648, when the Peace of Westphalia, according to many, first established a ‘sovereign states-system’? Or was it in the 1780s, when the coinciding industrial and French revolutions set in train the forces of industrialisation, nationalism, republicanism and total war? From this we consider how global system expanded by looking at 19th century European imperialism – as well as the responses of some countries which escaped direct colonial rule – we can identify some key dynamics of what might be called the modern ‘international historical process’. Finally we reflect on the extended crisis of the 20th century – with its world wars, revolutions and global ideological conflicts. Historical controversy continues to rage over all of these: can they be understood primarily at the geopolitical level as a series of great power conflicts over hegemonic succession? Were they the inevitable result of contradictions and dynamics inherent in modern capitalist society?


The second theme is competing concepts where we consider how understandings of global politics can differ when attempting to explain human history. This section introduces students to the need for systematic conceptualisation of global politics. Primarily it reflects on the contested nature of theoretical concepts, e.g. how the same basic categories are understood in partially different ways in competing theoretical approaches: What is the purpose of theory? Can concepts be universally applicable? To draw parallels with the history section we begin with how ‘the foreign’ is conceptualized and how efforts to distinguish the civilized from the barbarian shaped historical understandings of the global system. Linking to discussions of Westphalia and the sovereign state system, we re-evaluate the state’s monopoly on violence and how this links or not to notions of nation, nationality and nationalism. We end this section by looking at conceptualizations of non-state power, hegemony and international organizations.


Finally, we evaluate a selection of key issues in global politics in order to bring the course content to life.


World History as Global Politics

History and Global Politic s

1492 and the ‘Discoveries’

1648 ‘Westphalia’ and 1780s Industrial Revolution

19th Century European Imperialism

The Eastern Question: the Ottoman Empire, China and Japan

Crisis and continuous war: First World War, Second World War and The Cold War

(Competing) Concepts for Understanding Global politics

Reality, Abstraction and Theories

Non-state foreign relations: Cultures, Religions, and Civilisations

The Modern State: Nations and Nationality

Power and Hegemony: States, Globalization and Global Civil Society

War, Peace and International Organizations

Topics in Global Politics

Development, Underdevelopment and Poverty

The Global AIDS Pandemic

Human Rights

Migration, human trafficking and slavery

The Global Politics of Climate Change

Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Afghanistan and Iraq: the Changing Nature of War and Conflict


History as Global Politics


History and the Study of Global Politics

Required Readings

Evans, R. In Defense of History, London 1997, 2nd edition, Chapter 1: ‘The History of History’.

Carr, E.H What is History?, London 1961, chap.4 ‘Causation in History’.
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