In this introduction to the collection, we explain its focus on non-Western small states. While the terms ‘non-Western’ and ‘small states’ are problematic – we discuss these problems here – the smallness and non-Westerness of the states studied by the contributing authors set them apart in a way that has attracted little academic attention so far. They allow them to operate with fewer normative and practical constraints than their bigger, Western counterparts; offer them a wide range of (often historically forged) political ties; and force them to draw on a diversity of approaches and strategic thinking, and a creativity, that they are too rarely credited for. Non-Western small states, rather than being mere survivors constrained to the world’s periphery, are better understood as activist states intent on existing. The collection offers a range of analytical keys to make sense of these states and their role in the international scene.