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The history of the European nation-state, wrote political sociologist Charles Tilly, is inextricably bound up with the history of warfare. To oversimplify Tilly’s nuanced and complex arguments, the story goes something like this: As power-holders (originally bandits and local strongmen) sought to expand their power, they needed capital to pay for weapons, soldiers and supplies. The need for capital and new recruits drove the creation of taxation systems and census mechanisms, and the need for more effective systems of taxation and recruitment necessitated better roads, better communications and better record keeping. This in turn enabled the creation of larger and more technologically sophisticated armies.

The complexity and expense of maintaining more professionalized standing armies made it increasingly difficult for non-state groups to compete with states, giving centralized states a war-making advantage and enabling them to increasingly monopolize the means of large-scale violence. But the need to recruit, train and sustain ever-larger and more sophisticated armies also put pressure on these states to provide basic services, improving nutrition, education, and so on. Ultimately, we arrive at the late 20th century European welfare state, with its particular trade-offs between the state and its subjects.

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Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. (forthcoming)