The Invention of Nationalism

Not many people realise that Nationalism is a relatively new phenomenon. Most think that it has a long history dating back centuries if not millennia. It’s common to hear modern people draw a connection between themselves and ancient people and nationalists often consider themselves following the footsteps of historic heroes. How many times have the Irish been called a proud and ancient race, with traditions dating back thousands of years? Historic battles and leaders are painted in national lines, even though people at the time wouldn’t have recognised the terms or given them much notice. Most believe that nations have always existed, after all didn’t the Irish always know they were Irish? What else could they consider themselves?

Yet not many realise that nationalism is a 19th century invention and that before that, there was no shared national identity linking people together. Before the Industrial Revolution, people only had loyalty to their family, their village and their lord, there was little concept of a nation. There wasn’t a common national culture, history or even language. But if people weren’t French, Irish, German etc, then what were they? Continue reading “The Invention of Nationalism”

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