Edited by: Muhammad Ahmed.
State making in Western Europe happened in different phases, the first being initiated by the Magna Carta in 1215 for the first time setting certain limitations on the monarchy and providing some freedoms to the common man. The signing of this Charter was the first step that would gradually initiate the state making process in Western Europe in the coming centuries.
The period of Renaissance (14th to 16th century) although predominantly a cultural movement also left an impact on Western Europe as did the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th-18th century bringing into forefront all the ideas of freedom/liberalism, democracy and reason. This was the age that saw the advent of new political and social upheavals and changes in Western Europe.
It is argued that outcomes of significant revolts often serve as key turning points in the history of state making – the Glorious Revolution of 1688 could be an example, it brought about a form of modern parliamentary democracy.
Although the very basic elements of initial state making process were present in Western Europe it was the wave of revolutions in the late 1700s that caused a stir and a subsequent widespread change in the political setup. In 1776 through the American Revolution, America’s founders established a republic and tested the viability of democracy; France’s revolutionaries beheaded a king and promoted the rights of man as a result of the French revolution in 1789, thus unleashing a revolutionary cycle that transformed Europe.
The reason why a revolution is closely linked with modern state making process is because of the ‘change’ factor that it brings out for instance monarchies were over thrown to bring in its place republics, colonial rule challenged to bring about creation of independent democratic states thus initiating the modern state making process. People suffering from the deterioration of their socio economic situation more often than not prompt revolutions. These people usually need an alternative vision before they could become revolutionaries. Thus one could say repressive regimes in most cases don’t normally trigger but help give shape to revolts.
Regarding the colonized territories, they had to overcome innumerable structural problems that they inherited from their colonial masters. One of the major things that would later impede state making in these territories was the way European colonists merged and consolidated large tracts of land for their own economic and diplomatic interests without regard for ethnic boundaries, consent of the local people and the traditional forms of government. The consequence of this was that the later state builders in these territories would be unable to experience homogeneity and territorial consolidation would prove a problematic task after the formation of a unified national identity. The perfect example here is the case of East and West Pakistan as well as later ethnic conflicts that would be fueled down the years (i.e. Baloch National Movement etc).
Another obstacle for the colonized territories in the later state making process was how even the local leaders implanted were instructed to look out for colonial rather than local interests – this created a sense of alienation between the statesmen and the masses well after the colonialists left. It greatly complicated loyalty building and thus state building efforts more so since the leaders of the colonized territories had to deal with a heterogeneous population.
Lastly, the international environment in which the colonized territories gained their sovereignty also hampered the state making processes to quite an extent. What took centuries in Europe took no more than a few years in the colonized territories – Europe went through various phases in its history (as mentioned above) which helped it to form alliances, homogenize the population, engender loyalty and put basic values and systems in place. The colonized territories due to the lack of this were not able to control the territories allocated to them leave alone providing basic welfare services for their citizens.
These were some of the difficulties that the colonized territories were faced with as a result of the colonial legacy and the difference between them and Western Europe when it comes to modern state making.’