2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Invention of Tradition (Canto Classics) (Paperback)
This 1983 book by Marxist academic, Eric Hobsbawm attempts to assert that ''national identities are artificial, invented and by implication, imposed.''
Thoughout the book, he advances the claim that 'the nation' (author's inverted comma), ''was a comparatively recent historical innovation.''
He gives this period as 1870 - 1914 and claims this is when national identities were created. Here is his major error - anyone familiar with Anglo Saxon England will be aware that Bede, the famous historian was writing of the English people in the 700's!
The claim that nations and national identities are elitist, bourgeois creations falls down as the author cannot accept that a nation forms itself out of autonomous settlements, leading to small kingdoms (the seven kingdoms period in English history) and from there to a unified, single national state. Bede shows his strong English identity in his 'History of the English Church and People', therefore our national consciousness has preceded the formation of a unified state and is based on a common heritage and shared ethnicity rather than state power as the author would have us believe.
This, I believe is why there is a concerted effort to denigrate the early English accounts of the Germanic settlement of this country. Academic fashions come and go (will Hobsbawm outlive Bede?). Dogmatic theory cannot suppress the harsh facts that history keeps throwing back to the surface.
Peter Mandler put it better than I ever could when he exposed these fashionable theories in 1996 - ''Over the last fifteen years, a substantial literature has welled up, practically from nowhere, purporting to anatomise 'Englishness'. 'Englishness', this literature suggests, is not a true estimate of national charachter, but rather a historical constuct that was developed towards the end of the nineteenth century by the 'dominant classes' in British society in order to tame or thrawt the tendencies of their day towards modernism, urbanism and democracy that might otherwise have overwhelmed elite culture.''
I ask that people don't down-mark my review out of spite as I read this book with an open mind. I would ask that those reading this with an open mind, try Jean Manco - 'Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe' for a different view on how national identities are formed.
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Initial post: 14 Jan 2014 17:05:56 GMT
Why one star?
You may disagree but the book is, undoubtedly, of academic importance, thus useful for those searching for a greater understanding of the divers factors that lie behind national identities.
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