Arms, Violence, and the StaternA Historical Perspectivernby Jeremy BlackrnGovernments today seek to monopolize violence and torncontrol the ability of people to defend themselves, theirrnfamilies, and their communities. In doing so, governmentsrnpresent themselves not only as representatives and protectorsrnof their people, but also as the necessary end of the historicalrnprocess. These views can be contested, not only by appealingrnto empirical and philosophical aspects of the modern situation,rnbut also by looking at the march of time. Both involvernchallenging the arrogant claims of the state to power and legihmacy.rnHistory reveals the degree to which states increasingly becamernthe expression of organized violence. This owed much tornthe ambition of governments to monopolize the use of such violence,rnat the expense of a range of groups, from private individualsrnto stateless pirates and mercenaries, hideed, the monopolizationrnof violence became a definition of statehood, as arnfunctional understanding of rulership replaced the traditionalrnlegitimist understanding in the 19th and 20th centuries. Governmentsrntoday prefer to rely on other definitions, especiallyrnthose summed up in the term “democracy,” but part of the brutalrntruth is that states and governments are defined by power,rnthe quest for power, and the denial of power to others.rnYet this monopolizahon of violence is relahvely recent, andrnin no way an inevitable aspect of state organization. In the 19thrncentury, military entrepreneurship —mercenary activitybecamernless frequent in Europe, and this influenced relationsrnbetween states, and between states and nonstate bodies.rn]eremy Black is a professor of history at the University ofrnDurham, Endand.rnRecruihng via intermediaries was replaced by direct recruiting,rnespecially systems of conscriphon. The Crimean War (1853-rn56) was the last war in which the British government recruitedrnunits of European foreign mercenaries for war service.rnAuthorized nonstate violence was also eliminated in a piecemealrnfashion, mostly in the 19th century. This hit privateers,rnsuch as the government-supported and supporting Barbary corsairsrnof North Africa, and mercantile companies with territorialrnpower and their own armed forces, such as the British East IndiarnCompany. The elimination of such practices owed somethingrnto their ability to provoke interstate conflicts by being outsidernfull state control. Their eliminahon also reflected a sensernthat such practices were anachronistic as well as antagonistic torngovernments that sought power, emphasized reform, andrnplaced a premium on rationality, conceived of in terms of arnclearly defined organization with explicit rules of conduct andrnstate-directed systems. The territorial and military roles of therncompanies came to an end, that of the British East India Companyrnafter the Indian Mutiny. At a more mundane level, inrn1882 the Italian government took over the coaling base establishedrnby the Rubattino Steamship Company at Assab near thernmouth of the Red Sea. It seemed inappropriate for private companiesrnto control territory, although there was scant sign that entitiesrnsuch as the Hudson Bay Company were abusive.rnThere were exceptions, but they became more uncommon.rnOne latter-day adventurer, James Brooke (1803-68), helpedrnsuppress a rebellion in Sarawak in northern Borneo, and was rewardedrnby the Prince of Brunei with its governorship (1841).rnThat became the basis of a territorial position that led to him,rnand to the nephew and grandnephew who succeeded him, belANUARYrn1998/19rnrnrn