Micro Nations: The Lonely Planet Guide To Home-Made Nations, by John Ryan, George Dunford, Simon Sellars, and Simon Hall
As someone who has read my fair share of travel guides , I found this to be an amusing and brief discussion of micro nations, or those claimed states that are often run with a sense of lightheartedness. The scope of the book does not include those nations with legitimate historical grievances, like Somaliland , although at least one of the micro nations stated here did have troubled relations with that state, but rather those nations that have been made up in relatively contemporary times and that can serve as a source of amusement for those who wish to read about it or travel to such places. I found for myself that I had been to a couple of the micro nations without having been aware of it, and of course those happened to be Floridian micro nations, namely British West Florida and the Conch Republic, and there are a couple of other ones I may have visited accidentally in Baltimore and the Pacific Northwest. As is the case with many aspects of life, even the lightheartedness of these discussions has some serious elements as well.
The contents of the book are straightforward and topically organized. The introduction of the book discusses the locations and scope of what the editors consider to be micro nations, as well as how and who starts these projects, mostly men with particular liberal or libertarian political mindsets. The first part examines serious micronations that have adopted the trappings of nationhood despite their lack of universal official recognition and sometimes serious legal or military disputes over their territory with neighboring governments, including such would-be states as: The Principality of Sealand, Christiania, the Hutt River Province Principality, Lovely, Whangamomona, the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, the Kingdom of Elleore, the Order of Malta, Akhizvland, the Northern Forest Archipelago, Seborga, the Principality of Freedonia, and the Great Republic of Rough and Ready. The second part consists of those micro nations which have made the backyard of the nation’s founder to be an independent realm, including such states as: the Republic of Molossia, the Copeman Empire, the Empire of Atlantium, the Kingdom of North Dumpling Island, the Rpublic of Kugelmugel, the Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles, the Principality of Vikesland, the Great United Kiseean Kingdom, the Kingdom of Romkerhall, the Ibrosian Protectorate, the Sovereign Kingdom of Kemetia, Talossa, the Aerican Empire, Cascadia, the Principality of Trumania, and the Kingdom of Redonda. The third and final section consists of micro nations which have large ambitions, including such realms as: Westarctica, Borovnia, the Maritime Republic of Eastport, the Republic of Rathnelly, the Republic of Saugeais, the Barony of Caux, the Conch Republic, the Kingdom of L’Anse-Saint-Jean, Ladonia, the Dominion of British West Florida, the Grand Duchy of Elsanor, Snake Hill, the State of Sabotage, and a few plans at offworld colonies on the moon. The book includes some discussions of offbeat secession movements including one Emperor Norton of the USA (a historical figure who lived and died in the West and was a local celebrity in 19th century San Francisco) and the efforts of John Lennon and Yoko Ono to live up to the ideals of John’s hit song “Imagine.” The total contents sum up to a little more than 150 pages.
Intermixed with the obvious fun and silliness are some more serious aspects. For one, many of the micro nations have faced the problem of longevity, as I found it difficult to find a web presence for some of the micro nations listed here that were active ten years ago. For another, there appeared to be consistent concerns that led people to want to start their own nations. There was the failure of implied social contracts involving the well-being of landowners or pensioners in the face of increased taxation and regulation, there was a hostility to militarism and a desire to promote peace, and there was a feeling that many institutions in nations had failed to serve the common people while making heavy demands upon their loyalty. That said, many of the people who founded their own nations have found ruling their own nations to not be as fun as they may have thought, and ensuring cooperation in many cases has been difficult, while other nations have found enough like-minded people to make a go of it, at least for a few decades, despite the difficulties of attaining some kind of demographic or geographic stability. This is a book that is written for the laughs, and the book features more than a few crazy Aussies (who seem particularly inclined to start their own nations, in part because of low police pensions), and it features a few crazy Floridians and people of the Pacific Northwest, as one would expect, but aside from the laughs, the book is a reminder of the fact that all nations have begun in some like fashion to their own, with people dissatisfied with the status quo or with a vision of a better realm than the one they started in. Such dreams and such dissatisfaction remain, even if many of these imaginary realms are sadly defunct.
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