QOTM - October

Simon Purdue's picture

H-Nationalism’s Question of the Month series offers a forum for discussing the big questions surrounding research, pedagogy, and practice in the field of nationalism studies and the history of nationalism. Use the reply feature to join the conversation! Email Simon Purdue (purdue.s@northeastern.edu) of Northeastern University if you’d like to propose a question of you own. If you need technical assistance with logging in and posting comments, please contact H-Net’s Help Desk (help@mail.h-net.org).  

Hello to all our subscribers and guests,

We had a great discussion last month about the role we expect 2020 to play in the history of nationalism. Thank you to all who contributed and we look forward to an equally invigorating conversation in October. This month we are continuing to think of examples we're seeing around the world this year when we ask:

What is the relationship between nationalism and militarism? How have we seen nationalism contribute to the militarization of societies, and what role does nationalism play in increasing military power or the militarization of domestic forces? Conversely, are there examples of nationalisms that halt or reverse the militarization process? Can militarization be caused by the breakdown of nationalisms?

As always we look forward to reading your thoughts on this tough but important question. Please spread the series far and wide, including to your students! We value all contributions and would love to welcome a new generation of scholars to H-Nationalism.

Best wishes,

Simon Purdue -- Network Editor

Dear All, 

A few quick thoughts on this question of the month. 

1) It is interesting to note, and perhaps easy to forget, that for much of its early history the United States was a kind of counter-example from what I would take to be the presumptive norm of nationalism and militarism going hand in hand. Certainly the country had a martial tradition, representing by the veneration of George Washington. But part of the 19th-century United States political tradition was to maintain only a small armed forces during times of peace, which is why rapid, haphazard mobilization early on and then equally rapid demobilizaiton often marked American war-making (such as in the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the War of 1898). The United States maintained only a small professional military, with its servicemen seen as societal washouts. War heroes, of course, played a prominent place in American politics over this time (as evidenced by the presidencies of Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt) but could in fact find their hands politically tied in some contexts because of their military service. Grant, when president after the Civil War, for example, was exposed to Democratic criticisms that he was an inicipient military dictator when he sought to exert federal power to defend African American rights in the South. 

2) Although I lack the political-science chops to make an argument on the topic, I would be curious to know whether there is an identifiable relationship between the relationship between militarism and nationalism in small vs. large states, or perhaps states that are near or far from large states. 

Kind Regards, 

David Prior