European state-formation would have looked very different if rulers did not constantly have to negotiate with a strong clergy, independent townsmen, and the nobility over, inter alia, the wherewithal for warfare, succession and public peace. But the medieval Church shaped European societies in other ways than this. It was the one institution of late antiquity that survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, and it carried the torch of the Roman world after the Empire collapsed.
These days it is perhaps difficult to put oneself emphatically into a world in which the dynastic realm appeared for most men as the only imaginable ‘political’ system”, writes Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, his seminal book on the origins of modern nationalism. But this was the world a large majority of all Europeans lived in before the French Revolution and in many cases up until the First World War.
It is Wednesday morning, my wife and kids have left for work and school and I am sitting in my home office, which has a beautiful view of the Gudenå river valley. I have the whole day to myself, no teaching, no meetings, no administrative drudgery. I am currently working on three books, all under contract with Oxford University Press, and it is one of those bright spring mornings that are perfect for writing. What’s not to like?
According to Cicero, history is the teacher of life (historia magistra vitae). But it seems fair to say that history has not been the teacher of International Relations. The study of international relations was born 100 years ago to make sense of the European international system, which had just emerged from four years of warfare.