A nation, in the sense of a common ethnicity, may include a diaspora or refugees who live outside the nation-state; some nations of this sense do not have a state where that ethnicity predominates. In a more general sense, a nation-state is simply a large, politically sovereign country or administrative territory. A nation-state may be contrasted with:
This article mainly discusses the more specific definition of a nation-state, as a typically sovereign country dominated by a particular ethnicity.
The relationship between a nation (in the ethnic sense) and a state can be complex. The presence of a state can encourage ethnogenesis, and a group with a pre-existing ethnic identity can influence the drawing of territorial boundaries or to argue for political legitimacy.
This definition of a "nation-state" is not universally accepted. "All attempts to develop terminological consensus around "nation" resulted in failure", concludes academic Valery Tishkov.
Walker Connor discusses the impressions surrounding the characters of "nation", "(sovereign) state", "nation state", and "nationalism". Connor, who gave the term "ethnonationalism" wide currency, also discusses the tendency to confuse nation and state and the treatment of all states as if nation states. In Globalization and Belonging, Sheila L. Crouche discusses "The Definitional Dilemma".
The origins and early history of nation states are disputed. A major theoretical question is: "Which came first, the nation or the nation state?" Scholars such as Steven Weber, David Woodward, and Jeremy Black have advanced the hypothesis that the nation state did not arise out of political ingenuity or an unknown undetermined source, nor was it an accident of history or political invention; but is an inadvertent byproduct of 15th-century intellectual discoveries in political economy, capitalism, mercantilism, political geography, and geography combined together with cartography and advances in map-making technologies. It was with these intellectual discoveries and technological advances that the nation state arose. For others, the nation existed first, then nationalist movements arose for sovereignty, and the nation state was created to meet that demand. Some "modernization theories" of nationalism see it as a product of government policies to unify and modernize an already existing state. Most theories see the nation state as a 19th-century European phenomenon, facilitated by developments such as state-mandated education, mass literacy and mass media. However, historians[who?] also note the early emergence of a relatively unified state and identity in Portugal and the Dutch Republic.
In France, Eric Hobsbawm argues, the French state preceded the formation of the French people. Hobsbawm considers that the state made the French nation, not French nationalism, which emerged at the end of the 19th century, the time of the Dreyfus Affair. At the time of the 1789 French Revolution, only half of the French people spoke some French, and 12–13% spoke the version of it that was to be found in literature and in educational facilities, according to Hobsbawm.