Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements

Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements

Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements

Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements

Synopsis

About half of today's nation-states originated as some kind of breakaway state. The end of the Cold War witnessed a resurgence of separatist activity affecting nearly every part of the globe and stimulated a new generation of scholars to consider separatism and secession. As the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War approaches, this collection of essays allows us to view within a broader international context one of modern history's bloodiest conflicts over secession. The contributors to this volume consider a wide range of topics related to secession, separatism, and the nationalist passions that inflame such conflicts. The first section of the book examines ethical and moral dimensions of secession, while subsequent sections look at the American Civil War, conflicts in the Gulf of Mexico, European separatism, and conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The contributors to this book have no common position advocating or opposing secession in principle or in any particular case. All understand it, however, as a common feature of the modern world and as a historic phenomenon of international scope. Some contributors propose that "political divorce," as secession has come to be called, ought to be subject to rational arbitration and ethical norms, instead of being decided by force. Along with these hopes for the future, Secession as an International Phenomenon offers a somber reminder of the cost the United States paid when reason failed and war was left to resolve the issue.

Excerpt

Don H. Doyle

Secession has left a bloody trail that runs through nearly every part of the globe. the very word “secession” is fraught with contested meaning. the term has been deliberately employed by its proponents to connote peaceful and legitimate withdrawal from an existing state and by its opponents to connote treasonous rebellion interfering with the unity of a state.

“Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?” James Harrington asked in the 1590s. “Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” Win a war for independence, and the leaders become founding fathers after whom cities, mountains, and holidays are named; lose the fight, and they might well be branded traitors and rebels and end with their heads on pikes as a warning to others. Rebels and founding fathers seem to be distinguished by their military fortunes rather than by the virtues of their claims to nationhood.

Though the authors of the present volume carry no banners for any particular cause, save that of reason and peace, they are dealing with a subject rarely governed by either. Our goal, nonetheless, is to examine secession as an international phenomenon with a long and complex history and to make some sense of it.

Let’s begin with the word “secession,” which has its origins in ancient Rome. the Latin term secessio referred to the temporary migration of the plebes outside of Rome, an act of peaceful protest intended to coerce the patrician rulers into redressing grievances. It was only in the nineteenth century, once states began defining territory and citizenry with more precision, that secession came to mean a more permanent separation, usually from a nation-state or other . . .

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