The Origins of Nationalism

The Origins of Nationalism : An Alternative History from Ancient Rome to Early Modern Germany

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In this wide-ranging work, Caspar Hirschi offers new perspectives on the origins of nationalism and the formation of European nations. Based on extensive study of written and visual sources dating from the ancient to the early modern period, the author re-integrates the history of pre-modern Europe into the study of nationalism, describing it as an unintended and unavoidable consequence of the legacy of Roman imperialism in the Middle Ages. Hirschi identifies the earliest nationalists among Renaissance humanists, exploring their public roles and ambitions to offer new insight into the history of political scholarship in Europe and arguing that their adoption of ancient role models produced massive contradictions between their self-image and political function. This book demonstrates that only through understanding the development of the politics, scholarship and art of pre-modern Europe can we fully grasp the global power of nationalism in a modern political context.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 256 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 14 b/w illus.
  • 1139180517
  • 9781139180511

Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. The modernist paradigm: strengths and weaknesses; 3. Foundations of a new nationalism theory; 4. Killing and dying for love: the common fatherland; 5. Competing for honour: the making of nations in late medieval Europe; 6. The nationalist transformation of borders and languages; 7. Humanist nationalism; 8. A German Emperor for the German people; 9. Nation and denomination; 10. Conclusion.
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Review quote

'... a worthy contribution to the scholarly literature on nationalism ... The particularly noteworthy and worthwhile aspect of Hirschi's definition of the nation is its focus on the multipolarity of nationality in contrast to the bipolarity of empire ... There is much to commend in this analysis of the emergence of a multicentric discourse of nationality ... Hirschi's admirable focus on the humanists and events of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries clearly supports his argument that nationality is not exclusively modern. He is right.' Steven Grosby, Reviews in History (
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About Caspar Hirschi

Caspar Hirschi teaches history at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. His previous titles include Wettkampf der Nationen: Konstruktionen einer deutschen Ehrgemeinschaft an der Wende vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit (2005).
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