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The Antiquity of Nations

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2745-8
280 pages
September 2004, Polity
The Antiquity of Nations (0745627455) cover image
In The Antiquity of Nations, Anthony Smith provides a fresh interpretation of the character of modern nations. Departing from conventional wisdom, he argues the case for a deeper understanding of their character, based on an ethno-symbolic analysis of the myths, memories, symbols and traditions of pre-modern ethnic communities. Building on his earlier work, the author seeks to balance the undeniable novel components of the nation with its ancient, rooted and persistent attributes.


In the first part, the author provides a sustained critique of the theories of some of the main exponents of modernism, the current orthodoxy in the study of nations and nationalism, tracing its origins to the Eurocentric and evolutionist assumptions of classical sociology. Part Two backs up this challenge through an exploration of key historical and sociological issues. These include the possibility of finding `nations' in antiquity, the impact of war on ethnicity at various periods of history, the long-term routes to nationhood and their modern consequences, the nature and functions of `golden ages, and the impact of Romanticism on nationalism. The result is a more rounded and penetrating understanding of one of the most complex phenomena in the modern world.


The Antiquity of Nations will be essential reading for all scholars of nationalism and for all students taking courses on nationalism and ethnicity.

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Acknowledgements.

Introduction: Paradigms of Nationalism.

PART I. THEORY.

1. The Myth of the 'Modern Nation'.

2. Memory and Modernity.

3. The Nation: Invented, Imagined Reconstructed?.

4. Nationalism and Classical Social Theory.

PART II. HISTORY.

5. Were There 'Nations' in Antiquity?.

6. War and Ethnicity.

7. The Origins of Nations.

8. The 'Golden Age' and National Renewal.

9. Romanticism and Nationalism.

Index.
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Anthony D. Smith is Professor of Ethnicity and Nationalism at the London School of Economics.
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  • written by the world’s leading authority on nationalism

  • provides a fresh interpretation of the character of modern nations

  • provides a sustained critique of some of the main exponents of modernism

  • explores key historical and sociological issues, such as the possibility of ‘finding’ nations in antiquity, the impact of war on ethnicity at various periods of history, the nature and function of golden ages, and the impact of Romanticism on nationalism.
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“Smith views nationalism from the vantage point of a profound knowledge of early history...Smith's articles are always informed, scholarly and worthwhile.”
Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Brings together seven essays by Anthony D. Smith hitherto spread among different journals and an edited book. To these are added two new essays and an excellent introduction ... The essays have been carefully selected and written to produce a coherent, unified and cumulative exploration of the importance of the pre-modern past for the character of modern nations.”
British Journal of Sociology

“Whether you agree with him or not, Anthony D. Smith’s interpretation of nationalism is a position that no serious student of the subject can ignore. It is a powerful case for the historical continuity of much of the national sentiment that permeates the modern era. The book attacks the "myth of the modern nation" and explores a range of critical issues, such as the impact of war on ethnicity and the importance of Romanticism in shaping many aspects of nationalism. This is a definitive and elegant demonstration of the ethno-symbolist perspective on one of the critical forces shaping the contemporary world.”
John Stone, Boston University

“Nationalism has its theoretician: Anthony D. Smith. In this erudite work, he continues to advance our understanding of nationalism by rightly recognizing that its theoretical battleground is the history of nations. Here, the battle is decisively engaged and won.”
Steven Grosby, Clemson University, South Carolina

“Lucid systematic and scholarly; further confirmation of the centrality of the author in the analysis of nations and nationalism.”
David McCrone, University of Edinburgh

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