Ever wondered how a nation is actually born? Turns out, it is a lot more tedious than you might imagine. There needs to be committees, assembling an invasion force, finding some land to live on and writing up a list of laws.
That is just the start. There are the other, fancier bits and bobs — passports, currency, stamps, etc. Once you’re done with all of that, you have to (very) nicely declare your independence, and then head to the United Nations in the fervent hope they accept you as one of their own.
Turns out though, this actually happens more often that you’d think and on a much smaller scale than you might imagine. Several people have actually begun teeny, tiny micro-nations, some of which are barely more than a rusty oil platform in the middle of the ocean, while others actually do occupy sizeable portions of land.
Have you, for example, heard of the Principality of Sealand (situated on an observation platform in the English Channel), the Kingdom of Fusa in Norway, or the city-state of Christiania in Denmark? Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t. Few have heard of these nations, and even fewer try to set up their own.
In How to Start Your Own Country, comedian Danny Wallace teams up with the BBC to figure out how to set up a new country. How does he do it? Simple. Wallace tries to start his own country. His journey takes him from frigid Scandinavia to sunny Italy and across America, from the old Confederate States to the glass-and-steel behemoth of the United Nations.
Once he’s figured out how he wants to run his nation, he realises he actually needs a nation to run. Undaunted by the challenges of impinging over someone else’s sovereignty, Wallace assembles a sizeable force, consisting of a massive array of ... one man, a former security guard who used to pull shifts at a local supermarket.
After the British police thwart his attempts to take over an island on the Thames River, the army very politely asks him to go away, and he is priced out of buying a castle and its surrounding estates in the middle of a lake in Ireland, Wallace decides to declare his own flat an independent nation.
Wallace also meets loads of interesting people on his travels who educate him on how to successfully govern his micro-nation. Once again, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who exactly these people are, or what it is that they actually do. Featured on How to Start your Own Country are a motley of interesting characters.
There’s Prince Marcello I of Seborga, Roy Bates, the self-declared Prince of Sealand, Joe Arpaio, who’s earned notoriety as America’s Toughest Sheriff, the famed socialist Noam Chomsky, and even an appearance by then Under Secretary General for the UN Shashi Tharoor.
Then, there’s the rather nice man who claims to own the moon, and a bloke who calls himself the King of Fusa. All in all, a nice mixed-bag of people, some with their heads screwed straight on, others with the screws missing.
It’s not the sort of show one would automatically watch, but with a name as obscure as, How to Start your Own Country, it is a brilliantly hilarious and insightful look into what actually goes into starting a country, making it a show you should download this weekend.
The Short and Skinny
Name: How To Start Your Own Country
Genre: Documentary Comedy
Produced by: BBC and Lee Philips
Produced for: BBC Two
What it’s about: What goes into founding your own country? Comedian Danny Wallace was just as interested as you are, and actually set up his own nation to find out more
Runtime: Six episodes of 30 minutes each
Where to watch: Amazon, Netflix, Vimeo
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10