War as a cause of state formation

By Anique Zwaan

As Herbst mentions, several scholars have addressed the topic of state formation and stressed the effects war has on state formation. Samuel P. Huntington argued: “war was the great stimulus to state building,” and Charles Tilly even stated “war made the state, and the state made war.”  While Herbst mostly focusses on state formation in Africa, he also states briefly mentions that in many cases in Europe, war has indeed been a cause of state formation.

The example that sprung to mind was the case of the formation of the Dutch Republic in 1581. For some historical background: before the Dutch republic was formed, the land that we now call The Netherlands and Belgium was known as the Spanish Netherlands, and was under full control of Philip II of Spain. The Netherlands were being oppressed by the Spanish, and the Roman Catholic faith was being forced upon the country. In 1568, the mainly Calvinist Netherlandish provinces started the Dutch Revolt, thus beginning the Eighty Years’ War. From the beginning, the country was divided (page 547) in two sections: the southern, catholic provinces (the land we now know as Belgium), and the northern, protestant provinces. In 1581, the northern provinces declared independence from the Spanish oppressors, creating the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. And now, almost 500 years later, the land that once was declared the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, is currently known as The Netherlands.

This example perfectly illustrates how a war has crucial effects on a country, and the process of state formation. The Spanish Netherlands, that were once separated by and during war, continue to exist as separate countries, many centuries later. The southern provinces as Belgium, and the northern provinces as The Netherlands.