The Military Revolution Goes Global: International Relations, History and Western Expansion

Event details

IR Seminar Series

Date & time

Thursday 17 November 2016


Seminar Room 3, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU


Professor Jason Sharman (Griffith University)


Bell School

International Relations scholarship on the rise of the West is premised on historians’ thesis of a military revolution in early modern Europe: military competition drove the development of tactics, gunpowder technology, and the Westphalian state, innovations that enabled European trans-continental conquests. This paper critiques the military revolution thesis of European expansion and offers an alternative perspective. First, the factors that defined the military revolution in Europe were absent in extra-European conquests, which were instead carried out by small groups of private actors adopting local tactics and allies. Second, the combination of necessary and sufficient reasoning and Eurocentric selection bias produces unsound causal inferences in the conventional account. Greater consideration of other regions enables better testing and generation of theory. Third, problems of teleology and anachronism demonstrate the need for a greater awareness of how contemporary developments change our views of history, and how different views of history change our view of current international politics.


Professor Jason Sharman works at Griffith University with the Centre for Governance and Public Policy until January, when he takes up the Sir Patrick Sheehy Professorship of International Relations at Cambridge. His research is focused on money laundering, tax havens and corruption, as well as the international relations of the early modern world. Sharman’s work has been published in journals including the American Journal of Political Science, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Comparative Politics and Journal of Economic Perspectives. His eighth and ninth books are International Order in Diversity: War, Trade and Rule in the Indian Ocean (with Andrew Phillips, Cambridge University Press, 2015), and The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management (Cornell University Press, 2017).

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