Saturday, February 7, 2015

American Empire: Ch. 1

Generally speaking, the word province is essentially a “relative marker,” pointing to a major division of any domain. For example, the earthly realm and a certain area of knowledge can both be said to be provinces. In political discourse, the word has traditionally been used to signify a political territory being relative to a bigger one that includes it as one of its sub-units.  A provincia in the Roman sense, which the Oxford English Dictionary refers to as a “civil province,” can be distinguished from what the dictionary calls “a province of a modern country or state.”[i] While this distinction may seem prima facie to refer to the political development between the ancient Roman Empire and modern countries, I argue that the term province refers to two distinct scales or clusters of political territory—a distinction that involves qualitative differences.  A “civil province,” or provincia, is otherwise known as a dependency, or occupied kingdom. Therefore, we can say that provincia is normatively or by default on the kingdom scale.  I argue most modern countries, or nation-states, that are not themselves composed of modern-country-scale states, correspond to the scale. The vast majority of such states are on the scale of the early-modern consolidated kingdoms such as Great Britain, France, and Italy.  These states and kingdoms consist in turn of regions or provinces (which I refer to as “province” below as distinct from provincia). It follows that political territories referred to as provinces are not necessarily comparable. Complicating a definitive description of the two clusters, the extent of territory to which each refers has shifted over time, even with respect to the same territory. For example, many ancient and medieval European kingdoms were consolidated into the early modern kingdoms.  The amount of territory generally understood to be sufficient for kingdom status essentially shifted such that what had been a kingdom was only a province (e.g., a duchy) in a larger kingdom.  

The full chapter is at British Colonies Forge an American Empire.