In selecting the genealogy of "thinking" the nation, Anderson chooses his trajectory well--thankfully reading not only from the social history of Europe, but also from the experiences of its colonies and other states across the globe (the armed conflicts of 1978--79 Indochina provided the immediate impetus for the original 1983 text). It is especially these states which Anderson's later revisions address, with his wise realisation that so-called "official nationalism" in colonised Asia and Africa was not transplanted without intervention from that of the dynastic states of 19th-century Europe. When dealing with such an emotive subject, Anderson thankfully avoids favouring rhetoric over grounded analysis. He thoroughly explains the role of print language in imagining community, particularly with the development of the novel set in a society to which the reader may or may not belong, but can recognise, and the newspaper, which, perhaps replacing morning prayers, is read every day by people who have a sense of their fellow readers' existence.
The power of Imagined Communities ultimately lies in its applied resonances. The force of the argument of an "imagined community" is not only invaluable to sociologists or political economists, but it implicates each of us in compelling notions of identity and belonging whether our imagined community is with a nation or with others who buy, listen to and watch the same cultural products as ourselves. Essential reading for anyone interested in a history of the present. --Fiona Buckland
'Sparkling, readable, densely packed...' --Guardian
'A brilliant little book.' --Neal Ascherson, The Observer