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The Evolution of Political Units: Hunter-Gatherers to City-States to Regional Empires to Colonial Empire to the Modern State System. Tomas Hopkins Primeau Professor of International Relations.

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Tomas hopkins primeau professor of international relations

The Evolution of Political Units: Hunter-Gatherers to City-States to Regional Empires to Colonial Empire to the Modern State System

Tomas Hopkins Primeau

Professor of International Relations

Tomas hopkins primeau professor of international relations

Two types of forces in nature and world history: “things come together” or “things fall apart.” The same can be said of states and empires.

Centripetal vs centrifugal forces in states and empires

Centripetal vs Centrifugal Forces in States and Empires

  • City-States to Empires: Centripetal

    • Greek City States to Macedonian Empire

  • Empires to Modern States: Centrifugal

    • Breakup of Ottoman Empire-creation of modern day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, among others

  • Western Imperialism/Colonization: PETAL

    • Creation of British & French Empires in Africa/Asia

  • UN Decolonization: FUGAL

    • Breakup of French Empire in Africa-Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Madagascar

Current movements of centripetal centrifugal forces

Current movements of centripetal/centrifugal forces

  • Breakup of large states centriFUGAL

    • Breakup of Soviet Union (1991)

    • Czechoslovakia (1993)

    • Yugoslavia (1994)

    • Sudan (2011)

  • Expanding regional integration centriPETAL

    • Creation of European Union (1995)

      • Common Currency, internal migration, citizenship issues

    • Expansion of European Union: 27 states (1999-2012)

    • Creation of African Union (2002)

      • Common security force

Tomas hopkins primeau professor of international relations

Evolution of Human Social Organization


Blood relatives







Distant relatives





Mesopotamian city states c 5000 bc

Mesopotamian City-States c. 5000 BC

Later conquered and incorporated into the babylonian empire

Later conquered and incorporated into the Babylonian Empire

Greek city states 750 150 bce

Greek City-States750-150 BCE

Conquered and incorporated into macedonian empire

Conquered and incorporated into Macedonian Empire

And still later conquered and incorporated into roman empire

And still later conquered and incorporated into Roman Empire

Breakup of the roman empire

Breakup of the Roman Empire

Feudal europe a constantly changing system of small kingdoms

Feudal Europe: a constantly changing system of small kingdoms

The westphalian peace

The Westphalian “Peace”

Treaty of westphalia 1648

Treaty of Westphalia (1648)

  • Experts point to this as the beginning of the modern state system

  • Modern state system begins in Europe

  • Recognition of state “sovereignty” over issues like religion (Protestant Reformation) diminished papal power

  • State control over territory with well defined borders

  • Note that neither Germany nor Italy exists

  • Series of “unified” small kingdoms

The state centric system

The State-Centric System

  • The primary focus of world history and international relations becomes states

  • A network of international norms and laws begins to develop between countries

  • States are “sovereign” within their borders

  • Laws of War, Laws of Trade, Laws of Sea Travel, Laws of Territorial Acquisition

  • Emergence of specialized IGO system

  • Later the creation of League of Nations and UN

Small german kingdoms prior to 1871

Small German Kingdoms prior to 1871

Unified into modern germany b 1871

Unified into modern “Germany” b.1871

Tomas hopkins primeau professor of international relations

Growth of Russian Empire

Transformation of the regional empires into modern states

Transformation of the Regional Empires into “modern states”

  • Many former “empires” transform themselves in to “Republics” i.e. “Peoples Republic of China” or “United States of America” or “Union of Socialist Soviet Republics” or “Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” HOWEVER….

  • They were still considered “Empires” by the various nations who lived within them

From russian empire czar to the soviet union premier but

From “Russian Empire” & Czar tothe “Soviet Union” & Premier but…

Peoples republic of china but

Peoples Republic of China…but

Kingdom of serbs croats slovenes to yugoslav socialist republic but

Kingdom of Serbs,Croats,Slovenes to “Yugoslav Socialist Republic” but

The onset of western colonialism in asia and africa 1492 to 1945

The onset of Western Colonialism in Asia and Africa: 1492 to 1945

  • Columbus “discovers” the Americas while looking for trade route to the Indies

  • Expansion and territorial takeover begins with Portuguese in Goa (India) in 1510

  • Later come waves of Dutch and the British

  • British East India Company 1600

  • Dutch East India Company 1602

  • Business/trade contacts made with many small Asian kingdoms turned into “protectorates”

18 th 19 th century colonization of asia through protectorates

18th & 19th Century Colonization of Asia through “Protectorates”

Protectorates used by the western colonial powers

Protectorates used by the Western colonial powers

  • “it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger [western colonial] state or entity. However, it retains formal sovereignty, and remains a state under international law.”

565 princely states in india at partition

565 Princely States in India at Partition

And sultanates as protectorates

And “Sultanates” as protectorates

And more protectorates and sultanates that today are called

And more protectorates and sultanates that today are called

States like indonesia saudi arabia and yemen

“states” like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen

Onset of western colonialism the scramble for africa 1880 1914

Onset of Western Colonialism: The “Scramble for Africa” 1880-1914

Look at the political boundaries of europe see any straight lines

Look at the political boundaries of Europe: See any straight lines?

Now look at the political boundaries of africa who drew those lines

Now look at the political boundaries of Africa: Who drew those lines?

  • Africa cut up just like a cake by the European powers at Berlin Conference, 1884-85

Colonial possessions 1914

Colonial Possessions, 1914

Fig. 8-4: By the outbreak of World War I, European states held colonies throughout the world, especially throughout Africa and in much of Asia.

Hitler and the nazi party s rise to power in germany

Hitler and the Nazi Party’s Rise to Power in Germany

  • With the rise of the Nazi party to power in the 1930’s Adolf Hitler finds that the world has almost been completely colonized

    • Germany lost all of its African colonies in WWI

  • Hitler has a bright idea “let’s colonize Europe”

Using the idea of aryan racial superiority hitler colonizes europe through lebensraum living space

Using the idea of Aryan racial superiority Hitler colonizes Europe through lebensraum “living space”

Hitler nazi s decide to colonize white people in the heart of europe

Hitler/Nazi’s decide to colonize white people in the heart of Europe

Questioning the legitimacy of western colonization centrifugal

Questioning the legitimacy of Western colonization (Centrifugal)

  • World War II fought in part in the name of “self-determination of peoples” and defeat of attempt to create a racist Nazi Empire in the heart of Europe by colonizing white people

  • Perhaps if colonizing white people is wrong this applies to other colors of people as well?

  • Dutch, and especially French, learn nothing from this lesson and try to re-colonize Asia and Africa

  • Emergence of National Liberation Movements throughout the colonized world

The colonies of the world 1945

The Colonies of the World, 1945

The un and decolonization

The UN and Decolonization

  • 1945 1/3 of world’s population are “non-self governing peoples” i.e. “colonized”

  • Article IX “sacred trust the obligation to promote” the “well-being” colonized people

  • And to “to develop self-government ” meaning eventual independence

  • 1960 Declaration of Rights of Colonized Peoples

  • 1962 Special Committee on Decolonization

  • Under UN direction 80 colonies become independent states/countries

Types of decolonization

Types of Decolonization

  • Some colonies gained their independence through peaceful negotiation

    • British withdrawal from India/Pakistan 1947

  • Others only achieved independence through long and bloody anti-colonial wars of “national liberation”

  • Indonesian Revolution(1949 Dutch)

  • Vietnamese Revolution (1954 French)

  • Mau Mau Rebellion Kenya (1960 British)

  • Algerian War of Independence (1962 French)

National liberation movements in vietnam and algeria

National Liberation Movements in Vietnam and Algeria

Asian decolonization

Asian Decolonization

African decolonization

African Decolonization

The world today a consolidation of the state centric system

The World Today: A Consolidation of the State-Centric System?

The world today or is it sudan breaks apart 2011

The World Today? Or is it? Sudan breaks apart 2011

Canada and nunavut 1999

Canada and Nunavut (1999)

Demark gives autonomy to greenland 2008

Demark gives autonomy to Greenland (2008)

Fate of large multination states soviet union born 1917 died1991

Fate of large multination states? Soviet Union Born:1917 Died1991

What does the future hold for large multi nation states like indonesia

What does the future hold for large multi-nation states like Indonesia?

  • Born: 1948-?

Or nigeria born 1960

Or Nigeria? Born:1960-?

Or india born 1947 or

Or India? Born: 1947-? Or…..????

Peoples republic of china b 1948

Peoples Republic of China b. 1948-?

Indigenous peoples were here long before states colonies or empires

Indigenous peoples were here long before states, colonies, or empires

Indigenous and colonized peoples perspective of state centrism

Indigenous and Colonized Peoples Perspective of State-Centrism

  • From the perspective of peoples like the Kurds, Australian Aborigines, Mayans, San Bushmen, Basques, and many others

  • Who have lived in their territories for thousands or tens of thousands of years

  • The state-centric system seems quite NEW in terms of time AND

  • Quite TRANSITIORY and EPHEMERAL in terms of human (not state) HISTORY.

The san of the kalahari desert

The San of the Kalahari Desert

  • World’s oldest culture 80,000 years old

  • Living in newly created states of

  • Botswana b. 1966 Namibia b. 1990

Central kalahari game reserve

"Central Kalahari Game Reserve"

  • In 1961 Botswana created a park called the "Central Kalahari Game Reserve“

  • In the mid-1990s a large diamond bearing field was discovered on San land

  • In 1997 Botswana declared that no human would be allowed to live in the park

  • Botswana began relocating the entire San population to a concentration camp called “New Xade”

New xade 140 km from the san s traditional homeland

New Xade 140 km from the San’s traditional homeland

A 47 year old state is currently destroying the world s oldest culture

A 47 year old state is currently destroying the world’s oldest culture

  • The Botswana government argues that the game reserve is for animals only

  • No hunting is allowed though the San have hunted these lands for 1000s of years

  • The Botswana Board of Tourism encourages eco-safaris to the park as a form of tourist/foreign revenue

  • Tourists are allowed in the park, but not the San

Http www botswanatourism co bw ckgr php

The modern state system and indigenous peoples

The Modern State System and Indigenous Peoples

  • Unfortunately when indigenous peoples confront modern states like the San they rarely win those confrontations

  • Where the San are forced to live today

The auto imperialist state

The Auto-Imperialist State

  • After the United Nations creates states like Botswana and Namibia…

  • Their “job” is to go to territories like the San’s and take their land away from them

  • This is a state being imperialistic towards indigenous peoples inside of their territory

  • This is viewed as legitimate and lawful by the state-centric system

  • This is usually done in the name of “economic development” or “modernization”

The indigenous response to the auto imperialistic state

The Indigenous Response to the Auto-Imperialistic State

  • Some indigenous people have the ability to resist A-I state attempts to steal their land and actually defend themselves

  • This can be seen in many places around the world today, where indigenous peoples are challenging the authority of A-I states

  • Dinka, Fur, Nuba “Southern Sudan”

  • Kurds of Northern Iraq/NE Syria

  • Abkhaz in Western Georgia

  • Chechens in Russia until genocide of 1999

Pockets of indigenous resistance to the state centric system

Pockets of Indigenous Resistance to the state-centric system

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