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Europe and Its Empires: From Rome to the European Union



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    1. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill/Free University of Amsterdam
      Gary Marks, 1905 S Lakeshore, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA, email:
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  • JCMS plenary lecture at the Biennial Conference of the European Union Studies Association, Boston, MA, March 2011. This article was written when I was a fellow at the Kolleg-forschergruppe on the transformative power of Europe, Free University of Berlin. Drafts were presented as a keynote speech at the ECSA Young European Integration Researchers Interdisciplinary Conference, Berlin, February 2011; at ‘The EU toward a Federation?’, Charles University, Prague, May 2011; at the University of Toronto; and as my Alexander-von-Humboldt prize lecture at the Free University of Berlin, October 2011. I would like to thank Harold Bathelt, David Banerjee, Richard Corbett, Sebastian Conrad, Lawrence Ezrow, Philipp Genschel, Edgar Grande, Seva Gunitskiy, John Hall, Markus Jachtenfuchs, Peter Katzenstein, Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Christiane Lemke, Benjamin Nendorfer, Lenka Rovna, Jérôme Schäfer, Frank Schimmelfennig, Sid Tarrow, Zavis Zeman, participants in the Free University of Amsterdam/Amsterdam University discussion group, and three anonymous reviewers for comments. I am indebted to Liesbet Hooghe for discussing and framing the ideas found here over many years.

Gary Marks, 1905 S Lakeshore, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA, email:


This article claims that the territorial structure of government results from a tension between scale and community. The benefits of scale arise from the nature of public goods, and include economic exchange, political power and protection against external shocks. Communities are double-edged in that they are characterized by parochial altruism. Altruism and social solidarity facilitate government within communities, but parochial attachments constrain government among communities. Scale and community, as theorized here, provide a setting for strategic choice. Both are in flux as patterns of human interaction change, and government itself shapes those patterns. Evidence is drawn from the five largest polities in the history of western Europe: the Roman Empire, the Frankish Empire, Napoleonic France, the Third Reich and the European Union.

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