Intro to Modern World History

11 Three World Order

Shelley Rose and Mark Cole


World War II destroyed the European-centered world that had emerged in the nineteenth century. In place of European world leadership and European empires, a three-world order emerged. The United States and the Soviet Union headed, respectively, the First and Second Worlds. Both of the super powers whole-heartedly believed in the universal applicability of their respective ideologies. The United States espoused liberal capitalism while the USSR did the same for communism. Soon after World War II, these two camps became engaged in a “cold war” to expand and counter each other’s global influence. The Third World consisted of formerly colonized and semicolonized nations, caught between the two superpowers’ rival ideological blocs. While most countries were able to free themselves of colonial rule, they were unable to overcome deep-rooted problems of poverty and underdevelopment. Moreover, Third World nations often became the staging ground for cold war conflicts. By the 1960s and 1970s, stresses appeared in this three-world order. Unrest and discontent boiled to the surface in all three worlds in different forms. New sources of power, multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and oil-rich states shifted the balance of economic wealth and posed new problems.


After completing Module 11 you will be able to:

  1. Explain the relationship between World War II and the three-world order.
  2. Analyze the extent to which World War II was a global war.
  3. Assess the roles that the United States and the Soviet Union played in the Cold War.
  4. Identify the goals of Third World states in this period, and evaluate the degree to which these goals were achieved.
  5. Compare the civil rights issues in the first, second, and third worlds, and assess the ways each “world” addressed these and other basic rights.

Section 1: Cold War and Revolutions of 1989

  1. Read Making the History of 1989
  2. Create a narrative in the app of your (or your instructor’s) choice from the perspective of one of the historical figures in these documents. Present their arguments in the first-person .
  3. Post the link to your on the course discussion board.


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