Drawing in lessons from 400 years of Great-Power politics, this volume challenges both the "declinist" arguments and the overstretched hypothesis of Paul Kennedy to develop an alternative approach to the debate on the rise and fall of the Great Powers. The first half of the book compares the Spanish, Dutch and the First and Second British world orders. It identifies their common features in order to find the most salient causes for their rise as world powers, and the most probable reasons for their decline. The second half of the book addresses the American world order in the 20th century, from Pax Americana to the End of US Hegemony. The author sees the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the resurgence of the US as evidence of the role played by normative dimensions, commonly underestimated in International Relations analysis. Theoretically challenging, Knutsen's volume provides a fresh approach to debates in international relations aimed at both students and scholars.