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These monarchs consolidated their absolute sovereignty over their territorial

possessions during thewars of religion; they then adopted a practice of


recognizing their mutual independence partly to reduce conflicts among
themselves over religious questions, but also so as to affirm each others
authority and reduce the status of other kinds of international actors. The
emergence of a states-system and a society of states depended, in short, on
a certain conjunction of power and interests, through which developed
the norms of acceptable or appropriate conduct and the international
legal rules and institutions of what has come to be known, accurately or
not, as the Westphalian system. Although the systems beginnings lay in
the self-interested activities of absolutist monarchs, gradually scholars,
statesmen and diplomats developed an account of the moral purposes
of this kind of international order, arguing that its great virtue lay in its
ability to handle the political and cultural pluralism of modern Europe, allowing
states to live together in moderately peaceful coexistence through
the toleration of their different ways of life.
Something else unfolded in the world beyond Europe, with different
actors; different conjunctions of power and interest; different norms,
rules and institutions of international relations; and, ultimately, a different
purpose for international order. The range of actors was more
diverse, including the absolutist monarchs from the orthodox narrative,
but also chartered corporations engaged in trade and colonization, noble
proprietors, individual settlers, colonial administrators, and, of course,
indigenous rulers and peoples. And instead of monarchs trying to consolidate
their absolute authority, the principal thrust of European activity
in the world beyond Europe was the acquisition of wealth through the
control of trade; not simply trade itself, but the manipulation and monopolization
of trade with East and West. There were two main ways
to establish control over trade: through the establishment of colonies of
settlers from the mother country, or by inserting the European power
into indigenous networks of political authority and commerce. Depending
on the circumstances at hand, different approaches met with differing
degrees of success. The British, who managed to establish themselves as
the European colonial power par excellence, were adept at both.
Over time, as with theWestphalian systems, these originally haphazard
activities began to take on a regular pattern, and it becomes possible to
identify certain norms, rules and institutions in the conduct of international
relations in the extra-European world, which shaped expectations
of appropriate or legitimate behaviour and actively worked to sustain
this particular pattern of order. From the beginning, the most consistent
features of European colonialism and imperialism were the division of
sovereignty across territorial boundaries, and the assertion that individuals