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Old August 31st, 2017, 08:06 PM   #1

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Superpowers and global influence

We have discussed whether certain ancient and medieval empires were superpowers, great powers or regional powers.
The debate is: until the Spanish Empire, most previous empires were relatively local.
Here: how did superpowers form?
Was the British Empire a superpower?
Should states have global influence to be called superpowers?
How did the Soviet Union fall from its status as a superpower?
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Old August 31st, 2017, 09:15 PM   #2
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I do think the definition should be up for debate and have a very strong opinion on the topic of what makes a superpower. "Superpower" conventionally means A, a faction capable of defeating any possible threat it could come in contact with/invading any possible neighbor or B, a country who exerts their influence globally beyond their region. I am very opinionated on this matter and strongly believe A is the correct answer to this question. States do not need global influence to be superpowers IMO, they need to be theoretically capable of it, geography permitting. Just because one "can" doesn't mean it's a good idea though.

For example Spain should not be considered a super power in the 1500s solely because they discovered a new continent. It was the conquest of probably the two most successful pre conquest American civilizations by fringe forces(with native help and other factors of course) that makes exerting influence in the America's impressive and reaching the America's isn't power itself.

This is my frustration with countries being considered super powers/great powers on the basis of having conquered a random place(s) around the globe and thus achieving "global influence" while the achievement wasn't that difficult. Examples like Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands etc despite being a superpower by merit of "global influence"example B, were incapable of even defending themselves against more powerful neighbors never mind exerting influence on them as my example A said. Notice how this differs from the UK whom despite having more "global influence" was also actually capable of exerting that influence against anyone, not just areas selected for colonization(it was capable of blockading Germany into submission for example, the UK was both uninvadable and could subjugate any other country it could come into contact with even a country that IMO might have been more powerful overall).

Here's your answers though
1)collection of territory and resources including a large population.
2)Yes as I outlined above, I'd probably have different reasons than someone who'd be like "the sun never stops shining in the British Empire". UK in that era could exert influence over almost anyone, and thus
3)capacity to influence the world is more important, than actually doing it. If a country can not be realistically conquered but could conquer anyone they see fit is what it means IMO to be a superpower in a pre Cold War context.
4)by collapsing into separate former member states.

My power scale
Super Powers:most powerful country(s) who are capable of invading any other country including the next most powerful one.

Great Powerne of several would be superpowers. The most distinctive trait here IMO is
there being less of a gap between the Super Power and Great Power with the superpower being vastly superior to all or almost all other nations in terms of capability and a Great Power being just one of several powerful countries exerting similar power. Shares traits with the Regional Power as well as these countries can exert influence in that region although Great Powers are clearly capable of so much more.

Regional Power:countries capable of doing what super powers/great powers do but only within their region.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 01:45 AM   #3

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Hmm in terms of super powers I'd argue that the B.Empire was not.
It surely dominated the sea for a long time. And was thus able to out power most European nations abroad.
It was however limited in how much power it could wield in the continent.
While it had the nautical power to get troops anywhere it didn't have the military power to take out the other heavy weights. It may have been able to invade a Sweden or a Greece but couldn't bring down a France or Prussia by itself.
It's limitations were mainly due to logistics and technology. WW1 was about the only time we were able take advantage of our Imperial strength and bring it to bear in Europe. Prior to that bringing Indians and Africans to Europe to fight would have been expensive, time consuming and not worth the hassle.
Economically it may have been mighty for a while.

The only real Super Powers have been the USA and the Soviet Union.
Rome ..... possible. But she was limited in reach and scope and was unable to strike out at distant powers. Same could be argued for early Chinese powerhouses... sure they had local superiority but distance and technology meant they would never be a threat to countries we'll beyond their borders.

Compare that to the USA.... even today no country is a threat to her own security. She could beat any other single power.
Russia is a bygone. Its big but a shadow of its former self. Like Britain and France its time is passed. China is a possible new superpower but not yet .... India to but not in the close future.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 05:08 AM   #4

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Soviet Union fell from superpower status because it ceased to exist so this is quite simple

I think your definition of superpower is correct and Great Britain in its light was definitely a superpower.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 05:43 AM   #5

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Originally Posted by VHS View Post
Here: how did superpowers form?
Radioactive spiders, gamma rays, being born on a planet with a red sun.

Or, acquiring territory, economic strength, and using that to build military strength. Ain't never been a superpower without a strong army.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 05:43 AM   #6

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I tend to agree with the Emperor.

With regard to Rome and China, I believe both were at some point in their history, and Assyria too. I don't believe it is necessary to have global reach--only to have the ability to defend oneself and impose one's will on any country close enough to pose a thread.

Eric--how could both the US and the USSR be superpowers at the same time without the British Empire being a superpower at its time in the world? The power of the US meant that the USSR couldn't do what it wanted unopposed on the continent of Europe and vice-versa, even if you include NATO within the resources of the US. So how does that differ from the situation of the British Empire at its height?

Last edited by David Vagamundo; September 1st, 2017 at 05:45 AM.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 05:46 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by Edric Streona View Post
It may have been able to invade a Sweden or a Greece but couldn't bring down a France or Prussia by itself.
Arguably though that's because of Britain's lack of a peacetime army. The BEF was woefully inadequate in both wars and it took time to mobilise to the point where it could challenge the better prepared Germans.

We were, though, somewhat better at smashing spear-armed natives. They don't like it up 'em.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 06:26 AM   #8

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And the totality of the populations of each country are not part of the history.

Year 1500 which was the country that had more population.







In the era of the discoveries, it was easier to take care of new territories for the colonizing countries that had more population.

I can also speak thus if portugal has the population of today in 1500 surely it was the greatest empire in the world .

Population of portugal in 1527 - 1 million 362 thousand.

I understand that the numbers of the populations of each country should also be part of the history of the discoveries conquests.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 06:30 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Edric Streona View Post
It may have been able to invade a Sweden or a Greece but couldn't bring down a France or Prussia by itself.
However, I would suggest that by that logic neither America nor the Soviet Union were superpowers, since neither were able to take down the other on their own (or even China for that matter). True they could have used nuclear weapons to annihilate the other, but only at the cost of their own destruction. So I would suggest that you cannot consider the ability to conquer every country on the planet single-handed as a requirement to be a superpower or you will struggle to find anyone that qualifies.

I would also point out that at the time of the Napoleonic wars Britain was able to conduct a war against Napoleon for 20 years - including fighting on numerous continents, to pay for other countries militaries as they fought, to shut down Europe's capacity to trade with the rest of the world, to fight another war against America, and come out of it richer and more powerful than it went in. Sounds like a superpower to me.
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Old September 1st, 2017, 10:01 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
Radioactive spiders, gamma rays, being born on a planet with a red sun.

Or, acquiring territory, economic strength, and using that to build military strength. Ain't never been a superpower without a strong army.
Or have the phoenix power......
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