Stanford on iTunes U has immensely interesting content, which is not always syndicated. I guess the university wants to wait and see if a course gets a certain amount of attention, before it opens a feed. The History of the International System is a lecture series that was conducted by professor James Sheehan earlier this year, but only put on-line after the course nearly finished. And then it took yet another couple of days, and some publications on the web (such as on Open Culture) to let the world know, before the input got into a feed. By now 9 out of the 29 lectures have become available. The rest, apparently is still in post-production. (feed)
This is a course, not just in history, but in a sense also in geopolitics and political science. Sheehan defines 'the international system' as the society of states. States need each other, however there is confrontation for each state to get its own way to find other states in its way. There are rules in order to make common life possible. Conventions, customs, laws etc. In the system of states there is no ultimate sovereign - no enforcement of the rules. There is however some kind of cohesion and dynamic, hence a system.
He starts off in the late nineteenth century. With the help of Verne's story In 80 days around the world, he attempts to convince his audience that the world has become a global unity. While he may need to continue his narration until the dynamics of the aftermath of the First World War, think of the League of Nations that emerges, in order to convince some people that indeed there is some international system, some order in the jungle of nations, for me his case was made. Stronger so, it seems to me, once one observes how the polities are intertwined and have a dynamic without a supreme power, one can even argue there has been an international system ever since the polities came in contact with each other. And if you consider that, although through intermediaries, the Romans traded with the Chinese, this system has always been nearly global. Globalization is certainly complete by the age of exploration.
Maybe the system is not purely international, since not all players are nation-states, but even in 1919, this is still not entirely the case. Those thoughts aside, we get in this course insight in the geopolitics of the last 150 years and how it alternately succeeded and failed to maintain a level of peace world wide. Recent history from a very exciting perspective. A podcast that will grant the listener insight in the quagmires of the Middle-East and other such persistently eluding issues.