Through a comparative study of the shift from feudal to early modern state in Europe (chiefly England and France) and the Chinese and Byzantine empires, this chapter shows the difficulties polities had in developing state capacity. The ability to develop capacity was much greater in China and Byzantium where the feudalism of Western Europe was not present, yet it was the state form that arose out of feudalism that came to dominate the world. The feudal legacy is shown in the England– France comparison. The origins of the modern state have been seen to lie in feudal and early modern (tenth- to eighteenth-century) Western Europe. This is where the state form that was later to be exported across the world emerged. While this basic view is accurate, it is also incomplete. The ability of some states in this region to develop the sort of capacity that enabled them to grow into the states we see in the twenty-first century was crucial in shaping the course of both state development and international history. But this was not the only region where states were able to develop this sort of capacity.
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