War and the Rise of the Nation-State

In This Review

War and the Rise of the Nation-State

By Bruce Porter
Free Press, 1993
350 pp. $24.95

This book underlines a fact that historians have long understood, namely that war, for all its devastating consequences, has been a driving force for modernization and played a particularly important role in the creation of the modern nation-state. Porter begins with the familiar story of how military necessity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries gave rise to the centralizing monarchies in Europe. The author updates this story by looking at the impact of twentieth-century total war on the strengthening of centralized authority in Europe, Russia and the United States, pointing out that war, often gloried by conservatives, has in the past century vastly accelerated the rise of the collectivist welfare state. While specialists may debate his interpretations of the many historical events portrayed here, this book presents an important thesis in a readable and informative manner.

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