Influences of the Ancient Roman Empire on Early Modern State Builders

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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... ... middle of paper ... ... peripheries and the metropolis were cooperative actors driving trade and expansion. Here it is clear that forming the British Empire could not have been classically inspired since Roman history places complete emphasis on Rome at the center of everything, the proverbial light that burns at the heart of civilization. In the British Empire, civitas was multi-cultural and multi directional where influence expanded from multiple locations. It is here that Armitage’s reintegration converges again on common agreement since modern scholarship firmly sites metropolitan policy on the eve of revolution as a major catalyst of the American Revolution. London metropolitan efforts to sway, what had been to that point, a cooperative relationship towards a traditional imperial relationship in their favor backfired against them thus terminating that version of the British Empire.

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