Nation, Nationhood, and Nationalism

Douglas Bradburn

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Nation, Nationhood, and Nationalism

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
  • History
  • Regional and National History



Nationalism reflects the desire of “nations” for a system of government that secures their interests and fundamental character. Nationalism has also come to mean an expression of identity that glorifies, or at least invokes, a deep and abiding connection between individuals of the “nation” that informs, complements, and often transcends other identities rooted in religious belief and affiliation, class imperatives, gender roles, and regional affinities. The real sticking point in much of the literature relates to how one defines a “nation” and how early “true” nationalism can be said to exist. Originally nations were assumed to be self-evident. Nations were a people sharing a common immutable ethnicity, which dated to the mists of time and could be seen by their shared language, history, bloodline, culture, character, habits, and manners. It was not necessary that these national peoples had an independent existence as a state, but there was a growing assumption that the nation was the people, the people were ultimately sovereign, and therefore nations should have their own state—a vision which had a certain efflorescence in the late 18th century in the Americas and Europe, a perspective that dominated the transformations of Europe after World War I, and an agenda that gave succor to numerous anti-imperial movements throughout the world in the 20th century. More recently, as the study of nationalism has exploded—it is a concept seriously studied by sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, historians, philosophers, and critical theorists—most theorists of nationalism have argued for the manufactured and “modern” quality of all national identity, that nations are “constructed” and “imagined” out of a very diverse collection of polities and that nationalism is a fairly recent phenomenon that dates to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, although debate continues on this historical narrative. While nationalism remains a major concern of contemporary politics in the world, and thus spawns a massive scholarly literature, this bibliography will confine itself (with the exception of some major theoretical approaches) to studies of nationalism in the history of the Atlantic world before the mid-19th century.

Article.  6503 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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