Contemporary History Pre-1900: Introduction

Why Do We Live in Countries?

Want to understand how sovereignty became part of world history? In this educational video, learn why kingdoms turned into countries after the Thirty Years’ War.

Last Updated
July 20, 2023

What are countries?

The world is home to nearly two hundred countries, and no two are exactly alike. Russia, for instance, spans eleven time zones, while Vatican City could fit comfortably within Central Park.

Large or small, however, all countries have something in common: they are the basic building blocks of the international political system. Essentially, that means that each country has a government that is responsible for what goes on within its clearly defined borders.

What is sovereignty?

But this hasn’t always been the case. Not only have borders shifted over the years, but the very concept of a country is relatively new. This video explores the origins of our modern international system, which comprises sovereign countries, and how it emerged from a competing patchwork of kingdoms, empires, fiefdoms, and city-states following a particularly devastating conflict known as the Thirty Years' War.