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The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe Paperback – 2 Feb 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (2 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691114811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691114811
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 1.4 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 667,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review


In this compelling historical treatise, Geary debunks the myth that modern European national and ethnic groups can be traced to distinct ancient or early medieval peoples. . . . [H]is arguments are important in light of the nationalistic excesses of the 20th century, and his conclusions are sure to provoke controversy among scholars. -- Publishers Weekly


In this compelling historical treatise, Geary debunks the myth that modern European national and ethnic groups can be traced to distinct ancient or early medieval peoples. . . . [H]is arguments are important in light of the nationalistic excesses of the 20th century, and his conclusions are sure to provoke controversy among scholars. -- "Publishers Weekly

Geary's lucid and expert examination of the circumstances in which . . . stories and identities were created . . . offers a satisfying and . . . often a subtle approach to some of the most elusive aspects of a complicated period. Its methodology is brilliantly and persuasively vindicated.--R.I. Moore "Times Literary Supplement "

An admirable survey of a complicated and important subject.--Kelly McFall "History: Review of Books "

Patrick Geary's "The Myth of Nations" is more timely than he could have anticipated. . . . Since 1989, this period--between the third and eighth centuries--has been persistently misrepresented by Europe's nationalist and racist populations, who claim to find in the Middle Ages some kind of justification for their policies. . . . Demythologizing the early Middle Ages entails first understanding how the myths were created in the 19th century. Geary is blunt ... it is impossible to map linguistic or ethnic identities onto national territories. . . . Ethnicity is 'impervious to mere rational disproof.' This is why Geary's message is so compelling, and why it matters to keep faith with reason: getting Europe's medieval past straight gives a bearing on its future.--J.L. Nelson "London Review of Books "


Geary's lucid and expert examination of the circumstances in which . . . stories and identities were created . . . offers a satisfying and . . . often a subtle approach to some of the most elusive aspects of a complicated period. Its methodology is brilliantly and persuasively vindicated.
--R.I. Moore "Times Literary Supplement "


An admirable survey of a complicated and important subject.
--Kelly McFall "History: Review of Books "


Patrick Geary's "The Myth of Nations" is more timely than he could have anticipated. . . . Since 1989, this period--between the third and eighth centuries--has been persistently misrepresented by Europe's nationalist and racist populations, who claim to find in the Middle Ages some kind of justification for their policies. . . . Demythologizing the early Middle Ages entails first understanding how the myths were created in the 19th century. Geary is blunt ... it is impossible to map linguistic or ethnic identities onto national territories. . . . Ethnicity is 'impervious to mere rational disproof.' This is why Geary's message is so compelling, and why it matters to keep faith with reason: getting Europe's medieval past straight gives a bearing on its future.
--J.L. Nelson "London Review of Books "

"Geary's lucid and expert examination of the circumstances in which . . . stories and identities were created . . . offers a satisfying and . . . often a subtle approach to some of the most elusive aspects of a complicated period. Its methodology is brilliantly and persuasively vindicated."--R.I. Moore, "Times Literary Supplement"

"In this compelling historical treatise, Geary debunks the myth that modern European national and ethnic groups can be traced to distinct ancient or early medieval peoples. . . . [H]is arguments are important in light of the nationalistic excesses of the 20th century, and his conclusions are sure to provoke controversy among scholars."--"Publishers Weekly"

"An admirable survey of a complicated and important subject."--Kelly McFall, "History: Review of Books"

"Patrick Geary's "The Myth of Nations" is more timely than he could have anticipated. . . . Since 1989, this period--between the third and eighth centuries--has been persistently misrepresented by Europe's nationalist and racist populations, who claim to find in the Middle Ages some kind of justification for their policies. . . . Demythologizing the early Middle Ages entails first understanding how the myths were created in the 19th century. Geary is blunt ... it is impossible to map linguistic or ethnic identities onto national territories. . . . Ethnicity is 'impervious to mere rational disproof.' This is why Geary's message is so compelling, and why it matters to keep faith with reason: getting Europe's medieval past straight gives a bearing on its future."--J.L. Nelson, "London Review of Books"

From the Back Cover

"A book of the best possible originality. It presents a theme that has been hotly debated in modern scholarly circles with a novel freshness, while drawing the attention of the reader to the urgent relevance of such debates to the history of modern Europe. This is a book of quite exemplary clarity. It deserves to be widely read and will doubtless spark off lively discussion among scholars."--Peter Brown, Princeton University

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Top Customer Reviews

By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 25 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
I am familiar with some of this author's works, notably Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World, so was happy to spot this book to read. First published in 2002, the book seeks to demolish myths largely generated since the nineteenth century on the `nationalism' of peoples and presents, briefly and succinctly, the actual story of the transformation of Europe between the fourth and ninth centuries. It is, as the author acknowledges, his "reflections on the relationship between the myths of European peoples and the realities of contemporary nationalism ...".

I've studied a few books on the whole theory of nationalism, and the migration of ethnic groups, etc. across Europe, and the only thing scholars seem to be able to agree on is that they all disagree. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but getting consensus on movements of peoples from centuries ago, who left little or no written or other material sources of their own (rather than their victims or enemies), is a big ask. Geary's book reads like his own considered thinking on the matter, which he has captured on paper for our elucidation, and to leave us to think further about subjects on which there really is no broad agreement, at least not yet. Maybe one day there will be, but given the nature of the question and the artificiality of the whole concept of `ethnicity' and `nationalism', I'm inclined to doubt it.

The Suggestions for Further Reading offer further opportunities for study of the histories of Medieval Europe and its individual people. Well worth pursuing.

This is, overall, a highly readable book, which, although brief, leaves you with plenty of food for thought and interest in further reading. I would recommend it to anyone wondering about the birth of Europe and its myriad peoples - how they may have seen themselves, and how we have come to see them.
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Format: Paperback
This review is from: The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Paperback)
This is a very fun essay, designed to make us examine the mythology behind the nationalism that arose at the end of the 19C, as supported by myths of ancient heroism or lineage. It is supposed to be for the general reader, not the specialist, but I think it is rather rarified in terms of the recondite details he gets into. To prove his point, he gets very deep into the way that Romans viewed barbarian incursions, how they absorbed the different peoples once order broke down, and then what came after in the Dark Ages. Now, this happens to fascinate me, i.e. who the Lombards or the Huns actually were, how they came to be, etc. I have read many books about it, such as the masterful Empires and Barbarians, by Peter Heather.

He begins with an examination of the origins of nationalism, in the 19C. Beyond the mobilization of resources that railways and an industrial economy made possible, it needed a founding ideology, some myth upon which to build the legitimacy of new modes of power. This was found in a nationalist narrative, supported by deep scholarly endeavor (as supported by the state) and disseminated in the standardized curricula as established in basic education.

The basis of this was found in claims of continuous legitimacy, as based in law, ancient tradition, ethnic-linguistic heritage, and conquest. The rest of the book is a painstaking examination of this notion from 200 to 1000 CE, to debunk the continuity part of it. In a word, he argues that ethnicity is a myth, that groups of people aggregated around charismatic leaders as they built empires or opposed oppressors. People joined, learned the languages of the powerful, and adopted identities.
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2016
Format: Paperback
I am familiar with some of this author's works, notably Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World, so was happy to spot this book to read. First published in 2002, the book seeks to demolish myths largely generated since the nineteenth century on the `nationalism' of peoples and presents, briefly and succinctly, the actual story of the transformation of Europe between the fourth and ninth centuries. It is, as the author acknowledges, his "reflections on the relationship between the myths of European peoples and the realities of contemporary nationalism ...".

I've studied a few books on the whole theory of nationalism, and the migration of ethnic groups, etc. across Europe, and the only thing scholars seem to be able to agree on is that they all disagree. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but getting consensus on movements of peoples from centuries ago, who left little or no written or other material sources of their own (rather than their victims or enemies), is a big ask. Geary's book reads like his own considered thinking on the matter, which he has captured on paper for our elucidation, and to leave us to think further about subjects on which there really is no broad agreement, at least not yet. Maybe one day there will be, but given the nature of the question and the artificiality of the whole concept of `ethnicity' and `nationalism', I'm inclined to doubt it.

The Suggestions for Further Reading offer further opportunities for study of the histories of Medieval Europe and its individual people. Well worth pursuing.

This is, overall, a highly readable book, which, although brief, leaves you with plenty of food for thought and interest in further reading. I would recommend it to anyone wondering about the birth of Europe and its myriad peoples - how they may have seen themselves, and how we have come to see them.
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