08 November 2011

Refuting the Idea of Ethnic Nation-States

In addressing a controversial and topical issue, Small Wars Journal tackles "The Most Dangerous Dumb Idea that Will Not Die" with a solid article. The money graf:

One problem with the idea of the ethnically-based nation-state is that it is a-historical—based on a false understanding of the creation and nature of the nation-states of Western Europe. France is usually held as a model of the natural nation. But France was hardly more natural than the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, a minority of subjects of Louis XVI could be described as ethnically French—an ethnicity created over many centuries through a combination of various Germanic, Gallic, and Roman peoples—who were settled over a large oval in northern France centered on Paris. Most subjects of Louis were, and if they thought about it at all, considered themselves to be, Provencial, Breton, Norman, Alsace-Deutch, Flemish, Italian, or a host of smaller identities. The borders of France in 1789 were the result of a millennium of wars and marriages, wars fought and marriages arranged to expand territory, not out of any consideration for the language or culture of the people who lived in those territories. France became French in the century after the Revolution, when the secular public schools and the conscripted army forced, to borrow a phrase from the historian Eugene Weber, “peasants into Frenchmen.” Spain and England, the other two examples usually given as proto-typical nation-states, are even more artificial. Spain was created in 1469 by the marriage of the king of Aragon, Ferdinand II, and the queen of Castile, Isabella. Spain achieved religious unity by royal proclamation requiring all Jews to convert, leave, or be killed, in 1492, with a similar ban on Muslims added. Yet even after five centuries of political unity, significant sections of the population remain non-“Spanish,” as Catalonians and even more so Basques are quick to point out. That Portugal is a separate state while Catalonia is part of the Spanish state has no more basis in natural borders or ethnicity than any border in the Middle East or Africa. England, to ignore the other parts of the United Kingdom, is a stew of the descendants of various Germanic tribes (Anglos, Saxons, Jutes), Danes, (descended from Viking raiders and settlers) Normans (themselves descended from Viking setters mixed with Gallic people of northwestern France), on top of earlier inhabitants who were what today we call Celtic, plus a smattering of Romans. None of these nation-states, France, Spain, or England was the result of ethnic or tribal borders.

The other details of the article are equally fascinating. And for some reason the spacerbaronmykeyboardseemstobestickingalottoday.

By: Brant

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