Small States in the Modern World

Small States in the Modern World

Vulnerabilities and Opportunities

Edited by Harald Baldersheim and Michael Keating

Small States in the Modern World comprehensively assesses the different modes of adaptation by small states in response to the security and economic vulnerabilities posed by global change. It uses a diverse collection of case studies to explore the complexities of change and to place them in their temporal and geographical context.

Chapter 1: The political economy of small states in Europe

Michael Keating

Subjects: politics and public policy, international politics, political economy, urban and regional studies, regional studies


History has known many different types of polity, to use the neutral term that Ferguson and Mansbach (1996) employ to avoid the loaded connotations of ‘state’. These have evolved and changed according to changing international and domestic circumstances. Over much of European space and history the dominant mode of rule has been the empire, from the Roman and Byzantine, through the Holy Roman, to the Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov and Hohenzollern empires, the last three enduring until the First World War. Empires are characterized by a concentration of military power at the centre but diverse means for ruling the periphery, including direct control and the use of intermediaries. There is no need for a homogeneous culture, national identity or unified institutions. In the western part of the continent, the end of the Roman Empire saw a fragmentation of political authority, followed by the rise of states (Rokkan 1999). During the fifteenth century, large polities consolidated, while several smaller projects failed (Burgundy, Catalonia, the Lordship of the Isles). Other polities survived at the interface between the powers. Scotland played England against France for centuries and survived despite the weakness of its monarchy. The Netherlands emerged in the context of war between England and Spain. Stein Rokkan (1999) drew attention to the ‘shatter-belt’ of territories that maintained their identities. The Netherlands, born from a religious revolt in a group of varied provinces in the sixteenth century, developed into a strong and unitary state.