Regionalism and the state in France and Prussia

Julian Wright, Christopher Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prussia and France have been associated with the absolutist expansion of monarchical authority and the evolution of a heavily centralised and interventionist state structure. Drawing on revisionist work in the two historiographies, this article explores the meanings of ‘region’ in both cases, with some surprising results. French regionalism has often been seen as fundamentally antagonistic to the pretensions of the centralising state. Yet the authors suggest that French regionalists increasingly moulded their reflections on culture and the state in a modern, republican context. The state responded in subtle ways: the relationship was thus marked by a higher degree of reciprocity than has often been acknowledged. The structure of the Prussian kingdom was, initially for historical and later for ideological reasons, less centralised than the traditional view would allow. This relatively fragmented and decentralised system created the space for a complex and highly adaptable relationship between the region, the province, the state and the nation. The picture that emerges forces us to rethink some key assumptions about the political cultures of France and Prussia, but also highlights some commonalities in the European experience of regionalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-293
JournalEuropean Review of History/Revue Europeenne d'Histoire
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jun 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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