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The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism



The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism

Anthony D. Smith

ISBN: 978-0-745-62580-5 October 2000 Polity 126 Pages


In this thought-provoking new book, Anthony Smith analyses key debates between historians and social scientists on the role of nations and nationalism in history.

In a wide-ranging analysis of the work of historians, sociologists, political scientists and others, he argues that there are three key issues which have shaped debates in this field: first, the nature and origin of nations and nationalism; second, the antiquity or modernity of nations and nationalism; and third, the role of nations and nationalism in historical, and especially recent, social change.

Anthony Smith provides an incisive critique of the debate between modernists, perennialists and primordialists over the origins, development and contemporary significance of nations and nationalism. Drawing on a wide range of examples from antiquity and the medieval epoch, as well as the modern world, he develops a distinctive ethnosymbolic account of nations and nationalism.

This important book by one of the world's leading authorities on nationalism and ethnicity will be of particular interest to students and scholars in history, sociology and politics.

Foreword by Yosef Kaplan vii

Introduction 1

1 Voluntarism and the Organic Nation 5

Organic and Voluntarist Nationalism 6

Cultural Determination and the Political Ideal 10

Ethnic and Civic Nations 15

Cultural Primordialism 21

Conclusion 25

2 The Nation: Modern or Perennial? 27

The Modernist Orthodoxy 27

Modernist Historiography 30

The Perennialist Critique 34

Continuous Perennialism 35

Recurrent Perennialism 40

Ancient Nations? 41

Conclusion: Problems with Perennialism 50

3 Social Construction and Ethnic Genealogy 52

Invented Traditions, Imagined Communities 53

A Critique of Social Constructionism 61

An Ethnosymbolic Account of Nations and Nationalism 62

Conclusion 76

Bibliography 89

Index 101

'Drawing examples from across the globe and providing succinct summaries of key ideas about nationalism developed by philosophers, sociologists and historians from Herder and Rousseau to Homi Bhaba and William McNeill, this is a stimulating and insightful essay by one of the foremost experts on nationalism studies today.' English Historical Review

"For thirty years, Anthony D. Smith has published extensively on the phenomenon of the 'nation' and has a global reputation in this field." History