How has the national system influenced international relation in 19th and 20th centuries?

Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Political scientists, historians, and practitioners of international relations (diplomats) have used the following concepts of political power:

i. Power as a goal of states or leaders;

ii. Power as a measure of influence or control over outcomes, events, actors and issues;

iii. Power as reflecting victory in conflict and the attainment of security; and,

iv. Power as control over resources and capabilities.

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Modern discourse generally speaks in terms of state power, indicating both economic and military power. Those states that have significant amounts of power within the international system are referred to as middle powers, regional powers, great powers, superpowers, or hyper powers, although there is no commonly accepted standard for what defines a powerful state.

Entities other than states can also acquire and wield power in international relations. Such entities can include multilateral international organisations, military alliance organisations (e.g. NATO), multinational corporations, non-governmental organisations, or other institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church, Wal-Mart, or the Hanseatic League International relations meant courtly exchange and recurrent warfare between various ruling armies, nation- state system defined the modern world with a new definition of international relations.

Coming of Germany and Italy as new kinds of nations in the eighteenth century, the subsequent treaties between various nations, a new economic configuration due to large scale industrialisation and subsequent colonization of the world led to various diplomatic exchanges which set the scene for the twentieth century’s international politics.


After the defeat of Germany and her allies in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States succeeded in having a charter for a League of Nations incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles – the peace treaty with Germany. The covenant of the League of Nations which formed Part I of the Treaty of Versailles was signed of June 28, 1919 and came into effect on January 10, 1920.

On 14th Feb 1919, President Wilson had already presented to the Paris Peace Conference, a plan for a League of Nations, declaring it as a guarantee of peace against aggression. The armistice had commenced on Nov 11, 1918 but the peace conference of the victors began in Jan 1919.

England, France, the U.S., Italy and Japan constituted themselves into a Council and the League was incorporated into the Treaty. Wilson became Chairman of the League Commission. Members comprised the victorious powers and on vote of 2/3rd of the Assembly, any self- governing state, dominion or colony, could be a member.

Article 10 of the Covenant read, ‘The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity of all members. In case of any such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation should be fulfilled’.


The ‘general association of nations’ that President Wilson had called for in the last of his Fourteen Points – meant that henceforth diplomacy would proceed more or less under the dictum laid down in the first of these Fourteen Points that is ‘frankly and in public view’.

In the League therefore, open diplomacy came into widespread use. Wilson had set certain Utopian standards of cooperation and the pre- existence of common interest among nations.

But this was not always practically possible. However, without expecting the League to have been instrumental in altering the fundamental behaviour of individual nations between 1919 & 1939, it is significant to remember that the League was more the creature of its members rather than a higher body imposing codes of behaviour.

If the main function of the League was to prevent war, it failed to do so. The respect due to international law and to territorial status established by the allied powers could be open to confusion and the League ultimately proved to be weak and ineffective organization.

Ten years later, the Kellogg – Briand peace pact signed at the instigation of the U.S. proclaimed the illegality of war as a political instrument. Bringing about imposing changes by peaceful methods was beyond any International organization in this period.

When Japan encroached into Manchuria and was condemned by the League, she left the organization. Germany left the League when there were differences in matters of disarmament. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia was another instance when the League was unable to use effective sanctions.

The more powerful member nations were generally unwilling to use force to settle acts of aggression by other states. International law seemed ineffectual in many situations. Emotions and desires were overwhelmingly forceful energies which made most efforts to maintain peace between nations unsuccessful in the long run.

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