Sense of History: an unfinished draft of an undergraduate history textbook by Robert C. Binkley, 1939-40. This transcription is not yet fully corrected.

Power and territory

As a source of livelihood and surplus,land is "real estate"; as the space within which power is manifested, land is "territory". Real estate is owned, bought, sold, rented. Territory is ruled, conquered, ceded, partitioned. The same acres are involved in both kinds of transactions. Real estate belongs to the world of markets, territory to the world of power.

The world as territory is made up of power areas, small one: within greater ones, the dwelling the minimum, the whole world the maximum. Just as no man can "have power" except it be power over certain other people, so no area can be a "power area" except as it fits into a larger area, or has smaller areas fitting into it, or both.

We have noted (p. 42) that there are certain metaphors currently used in describing what happens in state power organizations: "France hoped", "Ita1y suspected", "Russia feared". There are other metaphors equally current pertaining to power areas: "France expanded", "Poland was partitioned", "Germany was unified". The France that is alleged to hope is a power organization; the France that is alleged to expand is a power area.

In an effort to pet beneath these metaphors to the underlying facts we will examine the history of power organization in a sample power area. For our sample we will choose Bohemia.

And what is Bohemia?

In the center of Central Europe three rivers rise, their sources not far apart. They are the Elbe which flows to the North Sea, the Oder which flows to the Baltic and the March which flows to the Danube and thence to the Black Sea. Bohemia is the name given to the upper valley of the Elbe, Silesia is the upper valley of the Oder, Moravia the upper valley of the March. Pour out a bucket of water anywhere in this area: if it flows to the Elbe you are in Bohemia; if it flows to the Oder you are in Silesia; if it flows to the March you are in Moravia. Bohemia is a great river basin, two hundred miles [p.167] in diameter. It is ringed with mountains. Geographically it is almost as clearly defined as if it were an island.

For a thousand years, from about 918 A.D. to 1938 A.D. Bohemia was not only a geographic area but also an area of power organization -- a power area. It has always been and will always be a geographic area, as long as the rivers flow and the mountains stand. But it has not always been, and is not in 1939, a power area.