- "Empire is the art of putting men in their place."
- — Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, 19th century French statesman
Quick reference cardEdit
The term "great power" was first used to represent the most important powers in Europe during the post-Napoleonic era. The "Great Powers" constituted the "Concert of Europe" and claimed the right to joint enforcement of the postwar treaties. In literature, alternative terms for great power are often world power or major power, but these terms can also be interchangeable with superpower.
A "great power" is distinguished from an empire by the means it seeks to exercise hegemonic control over other polities as well as its subjects, for whereas an empire seeks to do so through the use of force (ie the Assyrian Empire or the Third Reich) a great power often uses a quasi-military or non-military strategy (commercial domination or cultural influence) to secure compliance from other polities.
The formalisation of the division between small powers and great powers came about with the signing of the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814. Since then, the international balance of power has shifted numerous times, most dramatically during World War I and World War II.