Is the nation state the best form of political organisation? Should a country’s borders be based on racial or linguistic lines? Does the presence of ethnic diversity strengthen a community, or weaken it? These questions are as relevant today as they were in 1862 when they were considered by the great liberal historian of Victorian England, Lord Acton.
Acton was sympathetic to nationalist aspirations, by the believed than an exclusive form of nationalism was a threat to liberal values and played into the hands of its reactionary opponents. In this essay he draws on his rich knowledge of European history to support the claims of multinational (or, as we would say, multi-ethnic) states. At a time when cultural diversity is increasingly under attack, the Centre for Independent Studies is undertaking a program of work on issues relating to immigration and multiculturalism. The first publication of this program is a reprint of Lord Acton’s essay ‘Nationality’, with an introduction by Chandran Kukathas.