19 Seiten, Note: 9,5 (von 10)
2. Viking Conquests - Birth of England
3. Kingdom of England: A Feudal “State”?
3.1 Norman England
3.2 Decline of Feudalism - Rise of Medieval Parliament
4. Rise of the English Nation-State
4.1 The (Absolute?) New Monarchs
4.2 Toward World War I - Liberalism, Nationalism and Mass Democracy
The state as such is a historical construct rather than a natural phenomenon (Hall,1984, p.1) and in the case of Europe, it is the result of various factors such as feudalism and wars over supremacy (Kennedy,1987, pp.31-72; Palmer&Colton, 2006, pp.49-98,121-188). England, for instance, first came into existence as a territorial entity when the Vikings conquered and geographically unified it around 1000 A.D. Although England is the “most enduring polity in recorded history” (Wormald,2005, p.105), it was not a state back then. In the course of history, England had been ruled by many different powers and itself ruled over others later, as it developed into one of the most influential European countries. This paper investigates the process of state- and nation-building in England. It focuses on the question why and when England emerged as a state as well as a nation. Moreover, the paper examines which one came first the English state or the English nation. However, it is necessary to define the closely-related concepts of state and nation to understand the process of English state- and nation-building.
Roberts describes the state as “a supreme authority, ruling over a defined territory, who is recognized as having the power to make decisions … and is able to enforce such decisions” (1979, p.32). In contrast, a definition for the nation is not as easily found because there are a number of controversial views. Gellner’s creationist or modernist theory and Smith’s ethno-symbolic evolutionist perspective are among the most significant. Whereas Gellner considers the nation a modern phenomenon, Smith holds that the nation is perennial. Gellner argues that nation and nationalism only emerged in the nineteenth century as he holds that they are products of modernity. He further states that the transition from low to high culture, which resulted from modernization, engendered the nation through a common educational system and one accepted language (Gellner,1994). In contrast, Smith believes that nation and nationalism are products of pre-existing traditions and heritages (1994) and therefore blames Gellner of only telling “half the story” (1996, p.359). Smith claims that the nation has existed throughout history as an ‘ethnic dominant core’. Moreover, he holds that bounds of solidarity, based on common memories and values, fostered the emergence of the state and finally nationalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (1994). This paper looks at English nation-building from a compromise between these two definitions. It investigates the rise of the nation, based on Hroch’s definition (1996, p.79):
“…The nation is…the product of a long and complicated process of historical development in Europe. …it [is defined] as a large social group integrated not by one but by a combination of several kinds of objective relationships (economic, political, linguistic, cultural, religious, geographical, historical), and their subjective reflection in collective consciousness. …among them, three stand out as irreplaceable: (1) a 'memory' of some common past, treated as a 'destiny' of the group…; (2) a density of linguistic or cultural ties enabling a higher degree of social communication within the group…; (3) a conception of the equality of all members of the group organized as a civil society.”
Nation-state is a third concept this paper discusses. It refers to the unity of nation and state, since a state does not necessarily have to be a nation and the other way around. A nation-state thus describes “’a sense of emotional and ideological commitment’, a ‘nationalist commitment’, to the… state’ …shared by rulers and ruled alike.” (Campbell, cited by Kumar,2003, pp.43,59).
It is necessary to recognize that England’s history is closely intertwined with the history of Great Britain and the UK. In 1707, England and Scotland formed the Kingdom of Great Britain and today England is a non-devolved state within the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom. This paper partially deals with the overlapping history of the UK and GB wherever they are significant for English state- and nation-building. Nevertheless, the main focus remains on the emergence of England. This paper claims that the English state and nation developed out of conflicts, such as wars and revolutions, and bases this claim on Tilly’s thesis that ‘War made the State, and the State made War’ (1985, pp.169-186). It further argues that Parliament and the English gentry played an essential role in this process. Firstly, this paper briefly outlines the emergence of England during the Viking conquest between the eight and the tenth centuries. This paper, secondly, considers the rise and decline of feudalism in England since the Norman conquest. Thirdly, it discusses the role of absolutism, mainly within the Tudor period, in the process of English state-formation. England in the British Empire is investigated, fourthly, among with the impact of conflicts on English identity.
When the first Viking attacks occurred in the eight century, as mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, England did not yet exist as a geographical entity. It was divided into the three kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex which were inhabited by Anglo-Saxons. In the course of the further Viking conquest up to the tenth century, Wessex remained the only non- Viking kingdom in England. However, Athelstan of Wessex (925-939) recaptured Mercia and Northumbria from the Vikings and was the first to reign over such a vast and English territorial unity as first king of all England. This unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one English kingdom laid the foundation for the emergence of an English state and nation.
English feudalism was the initial point of a centralization process that eventually resulted in the emergence of an English national state (Schulze,1996). At first sight, however, feudalism with its medieval plurality of overlapping powers and decentralized sovereignty (Gill,2003) seems opposed to modern territorial states. Feudalism was introduced to England by William the Conqueror (1066-1087). In the eleventh century, the Duke of Normandy invaded England and seized the crown after his decisive victory in the battle of Hastings (1066). With the conquest of England, William replaced the English upper class with loyal Norman landlords. He re-distributed the English land and thus tied his great lords and the main Anglo-Saxon landholders to himself by personal bonds of loyalty, the core of the emerging feudal vassalage system. In exchange for granting fiefs to his vassals, the latter were obliged to offer military and financial support to William by oaths of loyalty.
Despite the “Norman tenurial arrangements” (Black,2000, p.52), the king in this period was merely the first among equals: Primus inter pares as the Roman emperor Augustus put it in his Res Gestae (Augustus,Brunt & Moore,1969). William depended as much on his lords to enforce his laws and collect taxes in their fiefdoms as the lords depended on their own vassals as an executing force within their counties. The king could also be a vassal of other kings and relied on the wealth and support of the Church to justify his reign. This feudal chain of mutual obligations inevitably led to the decentralization of power and parcellized sovereignty in a state of estates. In these counties, the three Estates (firstly, the clergy, secondly, nobility and thirdly, burghers and merchants) struggled with the crown for power (Gill,2003, pp.73-80).
This development is crucial for English nation-building for two main reasons. Firstly, major Anglo-Saxon rebellions against the Norman rule were brutally put down, which possibly fostered a feeling of English national solidarity amongst the distinctive revolting groups. Secondly, William introduced Latin as political and French as elitist language, although there was still English as the common spoken language. However, around 1300, Normans and Anglo-Saxons had more or less merged into one society, united by the ties of Norman feudalism and language, as English, altered by French, became the vernacular (Kumar,2003, pp.45-50).
Feudalist England was further important for the emergence of the state. Individual town charters enabled peasants and merchants to create and gather national wealth. The outcome of the conflict between the crown and the nobles later determined the form of government that evolved in England. Last but not least, the feudal estate-managers as first permanent officials of a ‘state’ apparatus marked the beginning of an emerging administrative system (Black, 2000, pp.52-70). Although there was no top-down structure and feudal rule mostly consisted of personal politics and poorly developed castles to govern fiefs and tenants, it was an initial point for the building of state administration and institutional government. Nonetheless, feudalism only enabled the emergence of the English state and nation. Neither one did yet exist.
In England, the Middle Ages were marked by wars and insurrections, mostly due to the instability caused by attempts of both the crown and the Estates to extend their power. The ongoing struggle over supremacy left England with a breakdown of central authority that resulted in the civil war known as “The Anarchy” (1139-1153) (Black,2000, pp.62-103). Order was restored, when Henry II (1154-1189) ascended the English throne and made England part of what is today called the Angevin Empire, controlling large parts of France. This experience likely fostered a sense of belonging to England among Normans and Anglo- Saxons (Black,2000, p.64). So did the English feudal shire-system, “the world’s oldest operating governing body” as cultural heritage (Wormald,2005, p.117). Wormald claims that a common feeling of ‘Englishness’ was relatively early widespread (2005, p.118). The main reason, Wormald argues, was the interdependence of the king and his subjects, achieved by ceremonials to impress what he calls the “broad political nation” (2005, pp.107,118). Nevertheless, England was not a nation in the modern sense at that time because linguistic and cultural ties were still weak and there was no sense of equality or civil society. A national sense of solidarity, nevertheless, very likely existed. The English Middle Ages engendered national consciousness, since the standardized common law recognized rights of the individuals and relatively encouraged the emergence of a political society, although politics remained limited to the ruling classes (Black,2000, pp.64-66). The national validity of the king’s law aided the formation of governmental institutions and future continuity in English political and national identity (p.67).
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