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Influences Of The Ancient Roman Empire On Early Modern State Builders

1681 words - 7 pages

Anthony Pagden and David Armitage have maintained that the influences of the ancient Roman Empire provided valuable lessons to early modern state builders. Medieval Europe was a feudal period of expansion of territory and consolidation of power. Once the powerful monarchs of Spain, England, and France had secured their supremacy, they competed amongst each other to be the undisputed Lord of All the World. Their imperial ambitions made America the proving ground in a competitive political contest. Pagden, in Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500-c.1800, argues that ancient imperial examples were directly related to the various imperial policies of the competing super powers since all deployed conquest at some point and in differing levels as the principle tool of acquiring territory and resources. Armitage, in Ideological Origins of the British Empire counters that Roman influences were more indirect since ancient methods were first employed in European state building, a process that actually created empires in Europe before transatlantic expansion. He also challenges Pagden’s traditional assumptions that maritime naval power and Protestantism were the primary cohesive elements that united the emerging British Empire into what would become “the empire on which the sun never sets.”
Anthony Pagden’s is not alone in his perspective that religion and maritime naval power were central cohesive factors in the stability of the Atlantic British Empire. Prior to his 1995 book Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500-c.1800, Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation, put forth a similar perspective. Updating Colley, Pagden compares Britain’s Atlantic imperial designs to those of Spain and France. He places great importance of Britain’s colonial method of colonization whereas via metropolitan charters, provinces where given great autonomy while placing an increased emphasis on permanent settlement. By employing these methods, Protestant England deliberately avoided the Catholic Spain’s method of brute force subjection of natives and exploitation and control of natural resources. Beyond granting charters, the English, and later British, centre employed loose controls and oversight creating a feeling of good will and bonding their colonies in a common identity associated with national pride. Though we shall see later that London decision makers where very much concerned with creating a universal empire, they were not interested in promoting a universalism of a single religion such as Spain’s deep relationship with universal Catholicism. They wanted an empire of profiteering while maintaining a relationship between religion and state, thus, universal Protestantism and maritime commerce would be the bonds of empire.
Pagden notes that all of the actors in the age of empires were conquerors in some since and all of them employed ancient imperial methods, or at the...

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