e-book Power and the Nation in European History

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A different situation is that of the Kurds, preserving a strong idea of their nation, though divided by and living in other states. All political regimes, not just democracies, develop and use particular ideas of their own nation. Ideas of a nation also serve to separate a nation from other nations, making use of symbols derived from their history and society. Nations cannot be defined by objective criteria.


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It is not possible to declare that this is a nation and that is not. Objective criteria, however, can be used to a political purpose. Stalin, for example, gave as the objective criterion for the existence of a nation the possession of a contiguous territory.

The Rise of the Nation-State | Owlcation

This implied that Jews living in diaspora could not claim to be a nation. That is what Stalin wanted to prove. Hugh Seton-Watson had to come to this conclusion while writing his otherwise admirable study Nations and States. But he gave up the objectivist perspective. That trick made it possible for Seton-Watson to preserve and publish his book.

He avoided any identification with diverging perspectives on nations and nationalist ideologies. Precisely because no nation can be objectively established, the adherents of different and competing ideas of a nation — or nationalist ideologies — can become passionately involved in their beliefs. The particular idea of a nation as the legitimate foundation of states developed slowly but surely. He meant that only the King had authority.

At the time political philosophers were beginning to consider the state as a political community, to whom kings were in some respects responsible. Limiting the powers of a king later took the form of constitutional monarchy. Dynastic regimes saw the state as their own possession, which could not have a public character. During the French Revolution, the idea of a nation took form in the Third Estate, then became a necessary substitute to monarchy.

Dynastic states still had a plural population. Migration was taken for granted. Ethnicity did not play the political role it did later. Dynastic rulers were not interested in the nature and composition of the people they ruled. They saw them as subjects, valued as food producers, as taxpayers and as a reservoir of soldiers. Aristocrats did not see their servants as people like themselves. They were not ashamed to bathe or undress in their company.

Dynastic regimes were not interested in the languages spoken in their regions, towns or villages. These were later made part of a national pantheon and a source of inspiration for artists, composers, historians and linguists. The Industrial Revolution undermined the exclusive power of dynastic regimes and aristocracies. It provided orientation in the increasingly complex class structure of the state. First the entrepreneurial and financial-economic class became more powerful, and then an organised working class developed.

The latter in particular was seen as a threat by the ruling regime. Nevertheless, members of the aristocracy kept their hold on state institutions for a long time. The idea of particular nations became established in the competition between states, a fortiori in the First World War.

Understanding the Modern State

At the end of an essay on processes of state formation and nation building, Norbert Elias formulated a most helpful process criterion for nation formation:. Spain, wishing to finally crush the Dutch rebels in the Netherlands and the Dutch Republic, intervened under the pretext of helping their dynastic Habsburg ally, Austria.

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No longer able to tolerate the encirclement of two major Habsburg powers on its borders, Catholic France entered the coalition on the side of the Protestants to counter the Habsburgs. The war altered the previous political order of European powers. The rise of Bourbon France, the curtailing of Habsburg ambition, and the ascendancy of Sweden as a great power created a new balance of power on the continent, with France emerging from the war strengthened and increasingly dominant in the latter part of the 17th century.

After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. However, under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They were eventually able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The war continued in other areas, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened.

The peace negotiations had no exact beginning and ending, because the participating total of delegations never met in a plenary session, but arrived between and and left between and According to the Peace of Westphalia, all parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of , in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state the principle of cuius regio, eius religio. Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.

The delegates also recognized the exclusive sovereignty of each party over its lands, people, and agents abroad, and responsibility for the warlike acts of any of its citizens or agents. Multiple territorial adjustments were also decided. Among the most important ones was the recognition of the independence of Switzerland from the Holy Roman Empire and the expansion of the territories of France, Sweden, and Brandenburg-Prussia later Prussia.

The independence of the city of Bremen was clarified. Labberton, The Peace of Westphalia established the precedent of peace reached by diplomatic congress and a new system of political order in Europe based upon the concept of co-existing sovereign states. Inter-state aggression was to be held in check by a balance of power.

Introduction to Nation-States

As European influence spread across the globe, these Westphalian principles, especially the concept of sovereign states, became central to international law and to the prevailing world order. However, the European colonization of Asia and Africa in the 19th century and two global wars in the 20th century dramatically undermined the principles established in Westphalia.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, power was seen as unipolar with the United States in absolute control, though nuclear proliferation and the rise of Japan, the European Union, the Middle East, China, and a resurgent Russia have begun to recreate a multipolar political environment.


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Instead of a traditional balance of power, inter-state aggression may now be checked by the preponderance of power, a sharp contrast to the Westphalian principle. Skip to main content. The Rise of Nation-States. Search for:. Learning Objectives Define a nation-state. Key Takeaways Key Points The concept of a nation-state is notoriously difficult to define.

They created new government structures and state school systems modeled on those of Europe. They borrowed money to develop their infrastructure, building railroads, telegraph lines, and modern ports.

The ‘sovereign state’ is a myth. Europe’s nations are stronger when they band together

Ironically, modernization got them further under the control of the Europeans, who provided the loans. Intellectuals like Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Qasim Amin encouraged the reinterpretation of Islamic principles in response to the modern world as a way to break free from European colonialism.

Secular nationalist movements, like the Young Turks of Anatolia, also arose. Secular nationalism was particularly strong among non-Muslim communities, which could not fully participate in Islamic nationalist movements.

Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world

By the 19th century, nationalism within individual states was beginning to challenge the authority of the multicultural Ottoman Empire. Greece won independence from the Ottomans in , and other Balkan nations began to follow suit. Some Arab states joined the British under the leadership of the Sharif of Mecca. In return, the British promised them independence after the war.

The British and French, however, had already made a secret deal the Sykes-Picot Agreement , carving up the Middle East between themselves into areas of direct or indirect control. A final complication was the Balfour Declaration made by the British in , promising their support for "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.