Lesson 7: The Small States

This week All Around This World is going to go off the beaten path. Then off the beaten path again. Then once more, and again and again…all told, this week we’re going unbeat seven paths to seven of the world’s tiniest countries, which, if we look hard enough–use this map as your guide, though you’ll have to read along to figure out which red dot is which country–we’ll find sprinkled all over Europe.


watch Tony Camilleri and il-Bambinu from Malta try to out-Għana each other at a Maltese spirtu pront


when you go to Andorra you simply must dance the contrapás

Music from Luxembourg is strange, and kind of great

Léo Ferré may have been from Monaco, but he wasn’t your usual Monegasque

in class we’re going to try to sing like these guys


Europe is already a continent packed with relatively tiny nations, each with its own couple thousands of years of history that comes with its own particular linguistic, cultural and musical traditions–why does it need seven “mircostates” sprinkled in there to make things more complicated? Well, maybe Europe doesn’t really need the seven microstates we’re going to meet this week–other than Vatican City, of course, which performs a very distinct religious function for those who are so inclined–but the fact is they’re there, and each has its own story. Other than size, there are few common factors among the below “small states” list, though there is one theme that does seem to run among many of them: TAXES. Or, actually, the lack of taxes. In modern times the relative economic success of several of these microstates has a lot to do with their lax banking laws, or, in the case of
Monaco, the fact that there is no personal income tax. This has inspired many wealthy individuals and corporations to base themselves out of these tiny countries, literally saving billions of dollars in the process. Is that fair…? Well, it’s legal.

So there.

Before we embark on our tour we should acknowledge a recent series of articles found in the online magazine Slate.com that helped inspire this week’s exploration. In his series “Big Man, Little Countries,” Josh Levin set out to get to the bottom of four of the below states–Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino. We’ll link to his entries in the country sections below. In the introduction to his series he acknowledges a book that inspired him to go on a little country extravaganza–a 1954 book called The Little Tour: Andorra, Monaco, Leichtenstein, San Marino: A Journey to Europe’s Four Miniature States by Giles Playfair and Constantine FitzGibbon. We should make sure to acknowledge Playfair and FitzGibbon’s trailblazing work to, in addition to the fact that they both have great names for authors.

USE THIS MAP as you go along to get your bearings, though you’ll only be able
to tell which dot is which once you learn a bit about each state.


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