Nationalism and historical writing

Lawrence, Paul (2013). Nationalism and historical writing. In: Breuilly, John ed. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism. Oxford Handbooks in History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 713–730.



Nationalism has always been intimately connected to a sense of the past. Whether defined generally as identification with a putative cultural collectivity known as a nation, or more specifically as the notion that a given ‘nation’ deserves and can rightly seek self-government, nationalism is invariably bound up with perceptions of the past, and with claims for the present and future made on the basis of those perceptions. This chapter first outlines and analyses the links between the development of history writing and the evolution of nationalism (as both cultural sentiment and political doctrine). It then seeks to consider why there have always been such close links between history writing and the nation, to analyse what it is that makes history so indispensable to nationalists, and to ask overall whether nationalism requires certain types of history.

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