Regional Identity and Economic Change: The Upper Rhine, 1450-1600

Regional Identity and Economic Change: The Upper Rhine, 1450-1600

Regional Identity and Economic Change: The Upper Rhine, 1450-1600

Regional Identity and Economic Change: The Upper Rhine, 1450-1600

Synopsis

Europe lives in age of regionalism and regional identities which offer an alternative to the rigidities of organization by nation-state. Historically, such regions have been defined--if defined at all--in cultural, linguistic, ethnic, or political terms, with little emphasis on the economic factors of the period before industrialization. Tom Scott's intensive study of one region--the Upper Rhine between 1450 and 1600--redresses this imbalance. In this locality, divided between three countries and historically marginalized, Scott reveals the existence of a modern sense of regional identity working across national frontiers, and predicated on common economic interests.

Excerpt

In Europe, we live in an age of regionalism and the reassertion of regional identities. Within the European Union, vast sums are poured into schemes for regional development, mostly channelled towards the poorer member-states or the peripheries of prosperous ones. Much of the force of contemporary regionalism in Europe, indeed, derives from its critique of a hegemonic political culture which characterizes states without a devolved structure of power. Although the debate over models of political integration within Europe has become hopelessly mired in conceptual confusion over what a 'federal' or a 'confederal' Europe might mean, there is now a widespread perception that only a regional framework for political, cultural, and economic activity can overcome the rigidities of the nation-state or, for that matter, of bureaucratic centralism in Brussels, since the region may express an identity which transcends the boundaries of individual states just as much as it gives voice to loyalties which lie at a more local level.

Yet it is no secret that the term 'region' is both ambiguous and imprecise. Therein, perhaps, lies its attraction, since it can embody a diversity of aspirations and identities. in one dimension, the region may be determined by natural features, a landscape bounded by geographical limits or characterized by a uniformity of geology, topography, or ecology; in another, it may reflect the pattern of human settlement, marked by a common language, ethnicity, or culture. But it can also be an artificial construct, a means of identifying social and economic priorities, which can best be addressed by co-operation across existing administrative, territorial, or political divisions. It is this latter usage which informs modern regional planning. Hence the variety of terms which offer themselves as synonyms for or approximations to the region: some are stamped by historical or cultural traditions (the French pays, the German Heimat); some have political connotations (province, district, the German Land . . .

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