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MIDDLE POWERS AND GREAT POWERS THROUGH HISTORY: THE CONCEPT FROM ANCIENT TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY

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The lack of universally-shared definitions for middle powers and great powers is a common issue in international relations theory, as invariably outlined by the relevant literature. This research argues that this theoretical uncertainty is not due to an inherent limit of such definitions, but rather to their insufficient adaptation to an ever-changing international system. With a historical determinist approach, this article aims to demonstrate that primal forms of middle and great powerdom can be traced back to two and a half millennia ago, and it therefore examines three broad historical periods in which this occurred: antiquity, post-classical and early modern times, and eighteenth century to the present time. By tracing the ancient origins of the two concepts, it seeks to expand and refine middle power theory and great power theory, while clarifying the reasons for their current definitional confusion.

Keywords: IR theory; great power; international relations; international system; middle power; minor power; power hierarchy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Government and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Merewether Building, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2020

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