The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History


Show Summary Details


great power

Quick Reference

A state seen as playing a major role in international politics. A great power possesses economic, diplomatic, and military strength and influence, and its interests extend beyond its own borders. The term is usually associated with the emergence of Austria, Russia, Prussia, France, and Great Britain as great powers in Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815; they worked together under a loose agreement known as the Concert of Europe. After World War I, the USA grew in importance, while after World War II, the USA and the Soviet Union, through their industrial strength, global influence, and nuclear capabilities, attained the status of “superpowers”, and world events became dominated by bipolarity. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the only superpower is the USA, though China's growing economic and military strength may assure it superpower status in the next few years. The UK and France have declined from their former great power status, although they are still recognized by the United Nations Organization, together with the USA, Russia, and China, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with power of veto. The number of great powers at any time is considered a key feature of the international system, important in determining the level and nature of war.

Subjects: History

Reference entries