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International Politics Expert Talks 20th Century Transformation of World Order at Belfer Center

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is located at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is located at the Harvard Kennedy School. By Karina G. Gonzalez-Espinoza
By Erika K. Chung and Samuel P. Goldston, Contributing Writers

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs hosted Patrick O. Cohrs, a professor of international history at the University of Florence, to discuss modern international politics Thursday.

Cohr spoke about his new book, “The New Atlantic Order: The Transformation of International Politics, 1860-1933,” at the virtual event. In his book, Cohrs identifies the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as a pivotal moment in the transition between European imperial powers to states governed by rights and laws.

Cohr’s book is the first in a two-volume set which will eventually cover events through 2020, including the Second World War and the Cold War.

“This system that emerges has a certain durability and longevity and legitimacy, because it is actually the product of negotiations,” Cohrs said in an interview.

During the discussion, Cohrs argued that the state-oriented international system that emerged after the Paris Peace Conference is interlinked with a democratization of international politics.

“To create such orders is not just something for a few statesmen or stateswomen operating, you know, at the height of international politics,” Cohrs said. “It involves wider societies, it involves informed citizens and students.”

Cohrs said he hopes the new book sparks discussion about international history among people from many backgrounds.

“It’s written for, let’s say, people who are really interested in the topic, but also for a more general audience that wants to delve in and understand more about this kind of war and peacemaking in modern history,” Cohrs said.

Cohrs added that finishing the first book was not easy, especially as it was originally intended to be a single volume.

In order to describe the Paris Peace Conference as “just the beginning of a longer reorientation and transformation process,” Cohrs said he needed to add a second book.

Combining the book’s broader historical claims with the intricate events and characters involved was another challenge, he said.

“It's like a gigantic chess game of writing, where you have many perspectives and everything influences the other parts,” Cohrs said.

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PoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolGovernment