Nations and nationalism have shaped the world we know today, and yet they have consistently confounded attempts at systematic analysis. Lawrence examines the historiography of nationalism from 1850 to the present day to discover why the almost ubiquitous phenomena of nations and nationalism have proved so intangible and why so many conflicting theories are being advanced to this day. Lawrence explores the massive changes that have taken place in the way in which nations and nationalism have been conceptualised - from nations viewed as 'natural' and unproblematic, to a recognition of the role played by politicians in consciously engineering national sentiment, and a view that nations (and hence nationalism) have their roots in specific cultural developments. He argues that theories and explanations of nationalism have been inextricably linked to contemporary political concerns. While historians have often claimed to write dispassionately about nationalism, they have found it hard to break free from the shackles of their own national and political backgrounds.
A concise, accessible analysis of a complex field, this book is essential reading for anyone wanting to equip themselves with a theoretical understanding of why we live in nations, and why we invest them with such significance. PAUL LAWRENCE is Lecturer in History with the Open University. He has taught a range of courses and has published on inter-war France, nationalism and issues of crime and policing.
Paul Lawrence teaches History at the Open University. He has published on interwar France, nationalism and issues of crime and policing.