Nationalism and Historical Writing

Paul Lawrence

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

Nationalism and Historical Writing


This chapter analyses the links between the development of historical writing (and the historical profession) and the evolution of nationalism (as both cultural sentiment and political doctrine). While many cultural products other than the written word can provide populations with a sense of a shared past, written history produced by acknowledged specialists has often been privileged in nationalist discourses, partly due to the success of the historical profession’s own claims to scientific objectivity and partly due to the close links between historians and emergent states forged during the nineteenth century. While the prevalence of teleological national histories gradually declined in areas such as Europe and America during the twentieth century, national histories remained very important in other parts of the world throughout the period of decolonization. The chapter also seeks to consider possible reasons for the close links between history writing and nationalism, exploring the function national histories came to play in providing individual and group identities during the transition to modernity.

Keywords: Nationalism; history; historiography; historian(s); identity; narrativity; modernity; writing

Article.  8372 words. 

Subjects: History ; Methods and Historiography

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