In this unit, we want to understand what is meant by international history or diplomatic history, and the differences between them if any. Emphasis will be laid on the historical method in international relations and how this has changed over time, to embrace not just the description of events, but also the socio-economic and political conditions within which international Affairs is conducted.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- Discuss international history/diplomatic history
- Explain the genesis of international relations
- Describe the historical method in global system analysis
- Explain the role of history in the prediction of events
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Diplomatic History
This was the precursor to the sub-field of international relations and it dates back to the period of World War I and into post-1945 period. Until then, most writings on inter-state relations centered primarily on diplomatic history and international law. The approach was basically static and legalistic and was concerned mainly with a blow-by-blow account of events between and among states. The emphasis was on describing with as much detail and accuracy as possible, particular or specific incidents in history. No attempt was made to theorize nor was there a quest for policy relevant information that could be used to mould events to realize policy goals. However, the catastrophic effect of the First World War stimulated interest in the study of international Relations. Because of the magnitude of the death toll of the war, estimated at several millions, it was the concern of all to learn from the blow-by-blow accounts and to understudy the causes of war and to prevent it, with peace as the major dividend. For this, research institutions such as The Royal Institute of
International Affairs in London and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, were set up immediately after the war. Professorial chairs were also established at the University College of Wales in Aberysturyth in 1922, and the London School of Economics and Political Science in
1923, for the study of international relations. Despite the spread of the study to continental Europe, it was found that the diplomatic-historical perspective persisted. Even when the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 threatened this historical blow-by-blow accounts or method, it still persisted. Eventually the focus came to focus more on issues, themes and roles of statesmen across times. It also included the social conditions of the time, or a combination of all factors. Thus, we take a study on transfer of technology in Africa from 1960 to 1980, the findings which led to the shift to the south-south cooperation and self-reliance strategy. We can also analyze Nigeria’s foreign policy from 1960 – 1965, 1966 – 1970, or civilian era versus military regimes; post independence era, etc. With the period identified, analysis would shift to actors’ behaviour and pattern of relationships, such as cooperation, competition and conflict. In 1990, Iraq was advised by most countries to withdraw from Kuwait, because the United States was ready to repeat events in history (United States
bombed the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1941; two cities of Libya – Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986); Iraqi cities were eventually bombed on January 15, 1991. This historical experience ought to have guided Iraq in her action. At the same time, if Iraq was not forced out of
Kuwait, futurologists may argue that Iraq may go to Saudi Arabia next or, that it will encourage Muammar Gaddafi to annex Sudan and Chad. Those against the United States’ quick intervention also recall history by arguing that it could be another Vietnam.
Another aspect has to do with the fact that those behaviors are conditioned by the socio-economic background of the time. After all, no nation can just wake up to annex, or start to bomb the other. Iraq argued that it annexed Kuwait because it had just realized that Kuwait was previously part of Iraq’ 19th Province.Some analysts argued that Nigeria’s high point level of involvement in ECOMOG in Liberia is to counter previous passive role of Nigeria, and also the particular nature of the crisis.
If themes constitute the basis of analysis, they are examined across times as well as their influence on the development of relationships. For example, what is the import of Perestroika and Glasnost, Liberalism, isolationism, autarky, dirigisme, integration, and new international economic order in the present century since she has developed technologically?
The historical approach also takes on a role in a country’s making and implementation of foreign policy across time. In other words, to what extent has ideas, policies, influences and writing of notable leaders like Bismarck, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Kissinger, Nkrumah, Mandela, Nyerere, Babangida, Obasanjo determined war and peace? The social conditions under which they rule e.g. poor economy, falling standards of their currency, food shortages, falling prices of their exports, Oil Act, must have influenced their peaceful or warring relations. Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost was influenced by the poor economy of the then Soviet Union of the time and he wanted a hand of fellowship from the West.
Self Assessment Exercise
- What do you understand by diplomatic history?
- How did the study of international relations evolve?
Diplomatic history is a precursor to the study of international relations, and has seen evolved from the historical accounts of relations between countries to involving the socio-economic, political and global conditions under which countries relate to one another. The study of international relations was given added impetus by the scale of destruction and death during the second world war (1939-1945), and the need to understand not only what went wrong, but also to prevent future occurrences of such catastrophe.
We have discussed international history or diplomatic history and shown how this evolved from just the description of historical events as they occurred, to embracing the conditions under which such events occurred. In addition, we traced the evolution of the study of international relations.
6.0 Tutor- Marked Assignment
Discuss the development of international relations