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invented tradition


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It has every appearance of being an actual tradition, in that it repeats images and symbols drawn from the past (real or imagined), but is in fact both of a relatively recent origin and artificially created. British historian Eric Hobsbawm identified this phenomenon in a collection of essays he edited with Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition (1983). One of the most striking examples of an invented tradition adduced in this collection is Scottish tartan—the colourful clan tartans tourists purchase along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh are in fact an early 19th-century invention, not an ancient tradition as is claimed. Hobsbawm's point, however, is not to mock such fictions, but to highlight the ideological importance of at least the perception of continuity with the past.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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