Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
A nation (from the Latin for “birthplace”) is defined as a large group of people unified by a common language or culture. Nationalism is the belief that people sharing national characteristics should be able to form their own independent state, surrounded by a BORDER.
Modern nation-states were created by nations to give people sharing a common language and cultural characteristics the right to govern themselves as they choose. Nations provide protection against external threats and can ask their citizens to perform tasks, such as military service, in return. The more powerful a nation’s military and economic power, the more it can promote its own interests.
Throughout history, nations have formed in several ways. Some were established as a result of geographic isolation, such as England. Others were created as the result of emigration, such as Australia, often displacing existing nations. And still others were created from the breakup of larger empires or from peace treaties, such as Croatia. Some nations, such as the Kurds or the Palestinians, are still fighting to create their own nation-states.
Nations interact on many levels. Trade agreements allow businesses from different nations to buy and sell their goods and services with each other. Formal agreements, signed by political leaders or their diplomatic representatives, reinforce friendly relations and allow cooperation in different areas, such as military technology. International agreements ensure that all member nations abide by the same rules.
A border is a line marking where the territory of one nation-state ends and another begins. Borders are clearly marked on maps, but those between friendly nations may often be unmarked on the ground. Borders under dispute are often heavily guarded and have strictly controlled border crossings.
Nations often contest their borders, because of the need for land and valuable raw materials, such as oil, which are important to a nation’s wealth. Borders are often redrawn as a result of wars. Sometimes people end up on the wrong side of the border, such as in the former Yugoslavia, and this can lead to conflict, too.