Nationalisms and Vernaculars, 1500–1800

Peter Burke

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199209194
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Nationalisms and Vernaculars,             1500–1800

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter discusses the idea of a ‘great divide’ between the European nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the so-called ‘protonationalism’ of early modern times, the criticisms of this thesis and some possible answers to the criticisms. In order to explore the sense or senses of nationality in early modern times, it focuses on the history of European vernaculars (mainly the Romance and Germanic languages) between 1500 and 1800. Among the main topics discussed are translations of the Bible (which encouraged readers to identify their own nation with the Chosen People of scripture) and the gradual standardization of languages, which replaced a variety of regional dialects with a national norm in the domains of print and, up to a point, writing. The chapter concludes with a brief history of the idea of national character.

Keywords: Nation; identity; community; language; vernacular; Christianity; communication; translation

Article.  7280 words. 

Subjects: History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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