Analyze reasons for conflict among nation states, such as competition for resources and territory, differences in system of government, and religious or ethnic conflicts.

Focus Question: What are the reasons for conflicts among nations?

The before and after World War I maps show how global conflicts affect territorial boundaries.

First Balkan War Photo Montage
First Balkan War Photo Montage

Nation State Defined

A Nation State is a political unit consisting of an autonomous state inhabited predominantly by a people sharing a common culture, history, and language.

The modern division of the Middle East is an excellent example of the region of the world composed of Nation States.

After World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the region was divided by its modern borders, based in part off of areas of people existing around a common culture, history and language.

Reasons for Conflict Among Nation States:

A. Competition
i. For Resources

  • Example: In the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), there are massive copper deposits. The copper deposits extended across the border into the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Examples such as this litter almost the entire history of African Colonialism. Empire in the end of the 19th and the first several decades of the 20th century consisted almost entirely of resource exploitation. [1]

ii. For Territory
  • Example: The British Empire wanted to maintain control over the Suez Canal region in Egypt because it allowed them to bring goods from their Asian colonies to their markets in Europe. This territorial dispute resulted in Egypt becoming a colony of Great Britain in the 19th century, and justified war with the Ottomans who had previously controlled the area. [2]

B. Differences
i. In Government
  • Example: Fearing that Russia was extending communism throughout Asia, several "proxy wars" were waged by the United States, in Korea and Vietnam - the United States side upholding Democracy and the Russian allied side, Communism [3]
ii. In Religion
  • Example: From the late 18th to the early 20th century, governments and missionaries used "Civilizing Missions" as their justification for continuing imperial conflict throughout the colonial world.
iii. In Ethnicity
  • Example: In the 1980's, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein launched a genocidal campaign against the ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. [4]

Here is a link to the University of Hawaii's page on the matter, looking at technical causes and conditions for international conflict.

Colonialism as an underlying cause of conflict
Imperialism and colonialism has had long-lasting effects on the areas in which colonies were established. At this point, most if not all colonies have been given up, and instead national borders have been drawn in places that only tribal and regional borders existed.
  • Africa had countries in place when the Europeans left.
  • At the end of World War II, European governments gave land to the Jewish people in the Gaza Strip and created the nation of Israel, within a nation that already existed and there was already conflict.
  • In order to keep their colonies under control, some European governments pitted the existing factions within the colony against each other.
    • Decolonization was a cause of conflict, as the vacuum of power left behind by the leaving colonists, gave birth to power struggles in and around the area of the nation state.

  • Click here for an interesting discussion of social Darwinism and its prevalence in issues of global conflict.
    • Click here for an informative video discussion of international conflict.
      • Click here for an eye-opening look at the Russian occupation of Crimea, Ukraine, an escalating international conflict which could affect the entire world.\
  • Click here for a look at the Congo, and how it's colonial past led to a violent future, both in civil war and other regional conflicts.
    • Click here for a Crash Course on Decolonization and Nationalism.

primary_sources.PNGClick here for a long list of primary documents related to the Cold War, a global conflict caused by differences in government.

womens history.jpgClick here for a multimodal discussion on the role of American women during World War II. It includes articles, images, and videos of the often forgotten impact women had during this period of conflict.

Multimedia.pngUCLA Lecture on Nationalism and Nation-States. In the lecture Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and What is German is discussed in the creation of the German Nation State during the rise of Hitler prior to World War II.

Rotating_globe-small.gifWhat It Means to Violate Human Rights (July 2013)


[1] -'s_Ghost - King Leopold's Ghost is an account of how one man's imperial greed sparked conflict in an area for decades to come.
[2] - - A primary source document outlining why Great Britain wanted to maintain control of the Suez Canal, and how they would justify it.
[3] - - A brief explanation of the Cold War and how anti-communist feelings sparked proxy wars.
[4] -