#ReadingNow – “Levianthan 2.0: Inventing Modern Statehood” by Charles S. Maier

The following is an excerpt from Charles S. Maier’s Levianthan 2.0: Inventing Modern Statehood from The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. It paints a painful but unflinching account of what the history of this country—this civilization—has been built on: the erasure, or as he puts it, “success stories” of European/American settlers, not simply the defeat of those indigenous peoples.

“Communities we used to label casually as nomadic or tribal—whether (to cite only a few generic cases) of desert Bedouins on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire, the villagers of the Causasus or the highlands of Central Asia facing the tsar’s administrators, the Indians of North American arid lands, and the peoples of the African savannas—were slowly but inexorably subjugated. Their long and difficult retreat, of course, had started well before the late nineteenth century: when Europeans reached the Americas, the Portuguese and Dutch pressed inland from the coasts of Southern Africa, the French and British sought to control the North American Great Lakes, or the Qing and Romanov dynasties established adjacent imperial control over Xinjiang and Mongolia. By the twentieth century they survived as depleted units, allowed legalized or de facto tribal habitations, sometimes even subsidiary states within the empires, but their earlier confederations and international roles were just a memory— often neglected by the later anthropologists who studied their local customs and family structures but not their politics, or ignored by historians who were encouraged by all the resources of the victorious states to focus on their nations’ success stories.”

Now all we are left with are the “noble” depictions of defeated peoples. Something tells me they weren’t considered “noble” when they were having war waged against them and being slaughtered.

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