Video On Demand

Online Event: After Disruption: Historical Perspectives on the Future of International Order

September 2, 2020 • 9:00 – 10:00 am EDT

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The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the debate about whether world order is undergoing a fundamental change. Cornerstones of the post-1945 system—economic globalization, democratic governance, and U.S. leadership—face headwinds. At home, some Americans have questioned whether international institutions and the order they underpin still serve the national interest. While it is far too early to mourn the end of the American-led order, this pandemic has rightly concentrated thinking about how orders are made, reformed, and replaced. 

Periods of disorder like today naturally give rise to questions about how past orders came about, why they broke down, and what can emerge from the rubble. In a period of flux, how do different visions of order get resolved? What type of actors—governments, individuals, organizations—contribute to the making of new orders? Can a failing order be rehabilitated? Whose ideas win out? Does “might” always make order or can smaller actors shape the game? Does order emerge from a series of ad hoc responses to specific problems, or can a master blueprint become reality? In this moment of contingency, the Project on History and Strategy convened a group of international historians to answer these questions and excavate the past for insights about the relationship between disorder and order. 

We invite you to join a conversation about the insights history offers for today with Francine McKenzie, Dan GormanAlexander Bick and PHS Director Seth Center. The event launches a collection of essays on disruption and order spanning four centuries of wars, revolutions, and pandemics. Collectively they reveal the interplay of personality, power, and the forgotten contingency at the core of order-building efforts.

17th Century


  • Westphalia: Beyond the Myth by Alexander Bick, Johns Hopkins SAIS

19th Century

  • The Concert of Europe: Inventing an International Order by Glenda Sluga, University of Sydney

  • Disease and the Making of International Order by Andrew Ehrhardt, King's College London

20th Century

  • World War One: Cooperation, Conflict, and International Order by Dan Gorman, University of Waterloo

  • World War Two: Creating a Global Order by Francine McKenzie, University of Western Ontario

  • The 1970s: The Decomposition and Improvisation of International Order by Daniel Sargent, University of California, Berkeley

  • Small States and the Challenges of International Order by Hillary Briffa, King's College London

21st Century

  • Commentary by Iain King CBE

This event is made possible through general support to CSIS.

Seth Center

Professor of History, University of Waterloo
Research Scholar at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies