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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 come together” or “things fall apart.”

  • 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 come together” or “things fall apart.”

  • 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 come together” or “things fall apart.”


Blood relatives







Distant relatives





Mesopotamian city states c 5000 bc
Mesopotamian City-States c. 5000 BC come together” or “things fall apart.”

Later conquered and incorporated into the babylonian empire
Later conquered and incorporated into the Babylonian Empire come together” or “things fall apart.”

Greek city states 750 150 bce
Greek City-States come together” or “things fall apart.” 750-150 BCE

Conquered and incorporated into macedonian empire
Conquered and incorporated into Macedonian Empire come together” or “things fall apart.”

Treaty of westphalia 1648
Treaty of Westphalia (1648) kingdoms

  • 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 kingdoms

  • 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

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 to states”the “Soviet Union” & Premier 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
18 1945th & 19th Century Colonization of Asia through “Protectorates”

Protectorates used by the western colonial powers
Protectorates used by the Western colonial powers 1945

  • “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.”

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 those lines?

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 those lines?

  • 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”

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 un and decolonization
The UN and Decolonization (Centrifugal)

  • 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 (Centrifugal)

  • 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)

Asian decolonization
Asian Decolonization (Centrifugal)

African decolonization
African Decolonization (Centrifugal)

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 State-Centrism

  • World’s oldest culture 80,000 years old

  • Living in newly created states of

  • Botswana b. 1966 Namibia b. 1990

Central kalahari game reserve
" State-CentrismCentral 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”

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
http oldest culture://

The modern state system and indigenous peoples
The Modern State System and Indigenous Peoples oldest culture

  • 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 oldest culture

  • 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 oldest culture

  • 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