WARFARE, NATIONAL IDENTITY, AND STATE FORMATION

A significant weakness of Tilly is that he plays little attention to the concepts of legitimacy underpinning the state development. He recognizes that rulers had to bargain with their subjects, whether urban mercantile classes or feudal lords, but in his materialist approach states rest primarily on coercion and alliances of interest. Mann acknowledges rulers’ important judicial functions and distinguishes between despotic and infrastructural power—between the capacity to compel and to mobilize resources through social cooperation. Yet he tends to view infrastructural power as a quality of modern commercial societies. However, medieval political authority was dependent on rulers observing norms of legitimacy that were shaped by nationality and religion with which the martial ambitions of rulers might combine or conflict. Warmaking is dependent not just on organization but on normative consent and motivations, and in Tilly’s story nationalism comes in late as a deus ex machina. Mann considers nationalism as primarily a modern phenomenon because he links it with the emergence of mass citizenship and communications, neglecting the long-range identity effects of recurring war experiences.

However, many medieval historians consider ideas of nationality to be widely diffused in the Middle Ages, when they were associated with communities of language and with assumptions that peoples should be governed according to their own customs, laws, and languages (Bartlett 1994: 221). Susan Reynolds (1997: 285) describes how in medieval societies rulers were bound by custom and law. As early as the tenth century, kingdoms and peoples were in large part perceived to be identical. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries polities in England, France, and Spain were not simply kingdoms but layered communities whose populations conceived themselves as national, sharing myths of common descent (classical and biblical), specific characteristics, often based on supposed biology, and beliefs that they were or should be politically autonomous (Reynolds 1997: Ch. 8; 2005: 55-60).

As I mentioned in the Introduction, the existence, extent, and depth of national sentiments and identities are subject to much dispute (cf. Breuilly 2004; 2005 contra Hastings 1997). While there is evidence of an elite medieval nationalism, it is often unclear how far this carried down the social scale. Identities are normally tacit, and only given explicit expression at points of conflict. For that reason, although national sentiments may have played a hidden regulatory function in some populations, nationalism as a galvanizing force was episodic. Bartlett finds evidence of the latter when examining populations in competition in the ethnic borderlands of Europe, created by colonization and migration. The English parliament’s enactment of the Statutes of Kilkenny (1367) in Ireland reflects an explicit linkage between Irish practices and political disloyalty to the English Crown. These statutes, responding to Irish uprisings, imposed savage penalties on English settlers who adopted the Irish language, laws and customs, dress, forms of horse riding, sports such as hurley, and who maintained minstrels and intermarried with the natives (Bartlett 1994: 239). The exclusion of the Irish from official life was total, and Irish and English churchmen were to the fore in xenophobic propaganda against the other nation (Frame 2005: 149-50).

Reynolds charts how a sense of national solidarity had emerged in the kingdoms of England, France, and Scotland by 1300 through the provision of law and justice over the royal territory from the ninth century, and through collective actions that suggested the existence of a community of the realm (Reynolds 1997: 262-86). Many scholars, however, have maintained that a sense of nationality at this stage was subordinate not only to dynastic but to religious loyalties. John Darwin (2008: 30-2) argues that the Christian Church played an indispensable role in state-building, providing rulers with divine legitimation, staffing public offices, and offering through its territorial structure close population control. By 1400 a new Europe was developing as a loose confederacy of Christian states, with a common high culture, similar political and social institutions, and a developed interregional economy. These states engaged in conflict as well as trade with the richer and more culturally advanced Islamic world.

These religious wars, however, contributed to nation formation and statebuilding. Waging a crusading war in defence of the patria (in the early medieval period largely viewed as a heavenly kingdom) against infidels could be a holy act meriting paradisal rewards for warriors fallen in battle. Crusading wars against Islamic territories were important sources of statebuilding, used by rulers to centralize power, impose taxation (including over the clergy and military orders) legitimized by papal bulls, unite populations, and pursue territorial expansion (cf. A. W. Marx 2003). The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile unified Spain in crusades against Muslim power, and French monarchs declared a crusade to extirpate the Albigensian heresy and bring southern regions under their rule in the fourteenth century, as did the Habsburgs in crushing the Hussite revolt during the fifteenth century.

As a result, Kantorowicz (1951; 1957: 236-7) argues the concept of martial martyrdom became this-worldly to encompass a heroic death for a fatherland. Through this, the idea of the nation as a holy land, requiring sacrifice in its defence, was formed, long before the modern period. By participating in the Crusades, kingdoms and their rulers could achieve sacred status, notably so in the case of St Louis IX of France, in the thirteenth century. Such transference was reflected in the ‘ubiquitous appropriation of the cross as national uniform across Europe’, including the red cross of the English (Tyerman 2004: 188). By the end of the thirteenth century the idea of the loyal soldier dying for the patria in official propaganda was being charged with religious expression (further transformed by an emerging humanist revival), as the patria was transposed to a national kingdom, now conceived as a mystical body (Kantorowicz 1957: 236-42; Strayer 1969). In 1302 Philip the Fair summoned the three estates of the French parliament against the claims of the Pope in order to appeal to their amor patriae and make subventions (including on the clergy) for a war in defence of the fatherland, now explicitly defined as the kingdom of France. Here the Gallican clergy were defined as an integral part of the patria, thereby setting the corpus mysticum patriae above that of the corpus mysticum ecclesiae (Kantorowicz 1957: 250-8). Although as I noted in my Introduction, this conception of patria (as referring to kingdom) was formulated by lawyers, the networks of protests from all over the kingdom in 1314-15 in the name of commun du royaulme against the royal imposition of a tax without the justification of war suggests a broader-based understanding of political community (Reynolds 1997: 285-7).

Norman Housley locates the growth of a sanctified patriotism that, to varying degrees, shaped both state-building and popular mobilization from the fourteenth century, in England and France (during the Hundred Years War), Bohemia (the Hussite rebellions), and the Spanish Habsburg territories. Such conflicts were suffused with crusading imagery and claims that kingdoms or peoples were new Israels (Housley 2000: 223-4). The Hundred Years War between English and French crowns was initially fought for dynastic reasons, but, after the attempt of the English king Henry V to unite the two kingdoms in the Treaty of Troyes of 1420, it developed into a war in which religious and national feeling were united (Housley 2000: 227-8). Under Philip the Fair and Charles VII the idea of France as a holy land, inhabited by a chosen people was born (Housley 2000: 225). Now crystallized the key insignia of the French monarchy: the fleur-de-lis, Salic law, and the holy ampulla (Beaune 1985). Although such conceptions were articulated by Thomist writers and court propagandists, they were diffused downward to be employed by a peasant woman, Joan of Arc, to galvanize Charles VII’s troops (Housley 2000: 233-4).

Housley is one of many who argue that national sentiments focusing on common language, shared history, and unique piety were also present in the Hussite revolt of 1419 against the surrounding German states, in which the Czech Bohemian kingdom was described as the most Christian kingdom (Housley 2000: 230). In Habsburg Spain, under Charles V and Philip II, a sense of providential mission to unify the country under Castile developed into a genuine Spanish patriotism, directed against Jews and Moors and validated by victories in Granada, North Africa, the Indies, the discovery of America, and naval conflicts with the Muslim Ottomans.

Housley admits such Hussite and Spanish nationalism was subordinate to religious and, in the latter case, also to dynastic and imperial sentiments, though it was much more powerfully observed in England and France, as the crusading impulse died. Evidence of the social depth of national sentiments is patchy, but Joan of Arc’s success indicates a popular nationalist consciousness, as do Spanish military memoirs recording the patriotic vocation of soldiers (Housley 2000: 245-8). These states, France, England, and Spain, later became the template for European polities. More broadly, Bernard Guenee argued that in medieval Europe the common burdens of war in combination with dynastic continuities, administrative centralization, and a sense of resentment against intrusive foreigners generated national sentiments, expressed in a sense of shared language, religion (including national saints and churches), and history (Guenee 1985: 50-65).

This intertwining of religion and nationalist sentiments was intensified by the wars of the Counter-Reformation, when rulers, supporting the Catholic or Protestant cause in general European wars, sought to mobilize their populations against neighbouring powers. Confessional differences could threaten the integrity of states and nations, as in France, plunged into the civil wars (1562-98) between Catholics and Huguenots. In Protestant England, however, the conflicts, first with the Catholic powers of Spain and then France, gave rise to a nationalism linked to conceptions of parliamentary liberties and of England as a New Israel. This culminated in the revolution of ‘God’s Englishman’, Oliver Cromwell, who crushed Irish Papists and rebellious Scots (Hill 1970). The large-scale revolt of the United Provinces or Netherlands in 1572 against Habsburg Spain resulted in punctuated conflicts (dubbed the Eighty Years War), during which competing ideas of the Dutch emerged against a Spanish ‘Other’. These were a Calvinist Hebraic belief (of chosenness); a republican ethnic myth (of descent from ancient Batavians); and a monarchical conception centred on the Orange princes. Calvinists favoured a central authority with powers to impose an ecclesiastical discipline on Dutch society and the reconquest of the Southern Netherlands. They generally allied with the monarchical-patriarchal visions of the House of Orange, who portrayed themselves as modern Davids or Solomons. Their rivals were the regents of Holland, the dominant province and main carrier of Batavian myths, who supported separation from the South, state control over the Church, and a federal system that Holland could dominate. These external and internal conflicts formed the Dutch nation state (Gorski 2000; 2006: 151).

A similar symbiosis between religion and nationalism, generating a more demotic cult of patriotic martyrdom, occurred during the near ‘total’ Great Northern War (1700-21) between the Lutheran kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark. This was the culmination of Sweden’s imperial era between 1560 and 1721, during which Sweden was in a nearly permanent state of war and suffered burdens reaching nearly Napoleonic proportions: Charles XII of Sweden and Frederic IV of Denmark fielded more than 100,000 soldiers each from populations of about 2.5 million. Under Charles XII (1697-1718) the pressure of nearly continuous war began to level the differences between nobility and peasantry, so that the Swedish campaigns were sustained by the latter’s conscripted military service and taxes (Marklund 2013: 164). A pervasive propaganda of royal proclamations, local sermons from the Lutheran clergy, and broadside ballads distributed to a relatively wide audience evoked parallels between fighting soldiers, biblical heroes, and heroic precursors from previous wars. This created a myth of communal identity and of Sweden’s chosenness. Although centred on the King as exemplary male hero and the nobility, this propaganda also praised the honour ofthe common peasantry, connecting notions of martial manliness and patriotic sacrifice (Marklund 2013: 151, 157-9).

During the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as state confessional rivalries faded, so there were developments in international law to regulate both war and peace, particularly after the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). Older schemes of achieving peace via universal monarchy (e.g. a new Roman Empire), championed by a succession of great powers, were challenged by concepts of the importance of maintaining a balance of power between competing sovereign polities. In this ‘international society’, states were increasingly equated with nations (McBride 2005: 255-8). During this period dynastic and imperial ambitions inspired a series of wars between the great powers fought by large standing armies. This peaked in the reign of Frederick the Great of Prussia. These wars are often viewed as struggles of absolutist monarchs, in which national sentiment played little part, when a military professionalization enforced by draconian disciplines reached its zenith. This, however, generated fears that such armies could be employed for the internal repression of peoples. Perceptions of the widening gaps between soldiers and (incipient) citizens resulted in a revival among republican intellectuals in France and the Netherlands of Machiavelli’s call for citizen armies. By the late eighteenth century we find a reconceptualization of heroism as a psychological property capable of being possessed by common soldiers as well as the nobility (Van Nimwegen 2010: 161-2).

The almost continuous wars between England and France in this period (described by historians as a Second Hundred Years War ending in 1815) led to an intensification of national characteristics and stereotypes. During the Seven Years War middle-class nationalists in England, critical of the alleged Francophilia of the aristocracy, evoked the ‘ancient constitution’ of Anglo- Saxon times in support of parliamentary reforms. They extolled an English national character based on honesty, good beef, and bourgeois virtues (Newman 1987: esp. Ch. 4). A counter, more elite French nationalism, portraying France as the heir of Roman civilization critiqued England as a predatory materialist Carthage (Bell 2001: Ch. 3). These wars bankrupted the French state, forcing King Louis XVI to summon the Estates General in May 1789 for the first time since 1614, triggering the revolution. As Reynolds suggests, this was a reassembling of the community of the realm, but one now being radicalized by new ideas of universal individual rights (Reynolds 2005: 61). In short, the revolutionary nationalist fervour exhibited by the French first in the levee en masse, then in the mass conscription armies of the republic, did not come out of the blue, but was the culmination of longer developments.

I argue thus for an interactive, if non teleological, relationship between warfare, nationalism, and state formation, marked by advances in state and national formation as well as breakdowns. In this relationship nationalism, though as a galvanizing force an episodic phenomenon, played at times a driving role. To objections that nationalism is conjured as a deus ex machina by Tilly or is inaccurately described by Mann as of marginal importance before the modern period, there are a number of possible responses.

 
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