Monthly Archives: December 2012

Construction of Nationhood, by Adrian Hastings

Posted by dianamuir on December 25, 2012
Bible, Medieval nationhood / Comments Off on Construction of Nationhood, by Adrian Hastings

The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

Excerpts from “Adrian Hastings on nations and nationalism,” Anthony D. Smith, March 18 2003, Nations and Nationalism


“Hastings’s…   aim in The Construction of Nationhood (1997), published four years before his untimely death, was to outline that debate and put the case for those medievalist historians who could not accept the prevailing modernist orthodoxy on the nature and rise of nations and nationalism.

“The argument is threefold. Hastings’s first and most important contention is that nations as well as nationalisms, though they may have spread more rapidly in the modern period… (were not)  the product of modernity. On the contrary, a sizeable number of European nations (and their nationalisms) can be traced back to the Middle Ages…

“The other two arguments serve to support his main thesis. The first is that nations and nationalism were products of the spread of Christianity in Europe, because Christianity sanctioned the use of vernacular languages in biblical translations and in the liturgy, and nations are founded on literary languages. The second argument holds that, since Christianity had adopted the Old Testament (while rejecting the Jews), it had also to adopt the Old Testament ideal of a polity, because the New Testament possessed no political ideal of its own. As a result, the biblical ideal of the ancient Israelite polity, with its fusion of land, people and religious polity, which Christianity spread throughout Europe and beyond, was almost monolithically national. No other religious tradition possessed such a political prototype; and that is why nations and nationalism are exclusively Judaeo-Christian, and European, phenomena…

The article can be found in full here.


Sixteenth Century Nationalism

Posted by dianamuir on December 18, 2012
Medieval nationhood / Comments Off on Sixteenth Century Nationalism

Sixteenth Century Nationalism is a slender 1976 volume by E.D. ( Eva) Marcu.   It is not a constructed argument so much as it is a collection of quotations offering “a great variety of voices”  from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England that Marcu deems “sufficient to demonstrate no more, no less, than that nationalism in the sixteenth century was noisy, fanciful, and plainly fashionable.   Dressed in contemporary style, with its contemporary vocabulary and associations, it was neither quantitatively nor qualitatively different form later configurations.”

Because Marcu reads  all of the languages in which she found these quotations, and tells us that  she first “encountered, almost incidentally, so much chauvinism,” while pursuing other topics, it is necessary to take the material she found seriously and explain why such strongly-expressed nationalist sentiment existed in the sixteenth century.

In a one dated to the the time of the Armada, Elizabeth visits her troops (presumably at Tilbury)


“And many a captain kissed her hand,

As she passed forth through every band,

Where many a one did say and swear

To live and die for England

Add would not ask a penny pay…

But of their own would find a stay

To serve her Grace for England.”


Page follows page filled with patriotic sentiments of this sort.   Marcu concludes that “the abundance of examples should leave little doubt as to the existence of nationalism in the sixteenth century and of a nationalism that differed in no essential way from any later kind.”

At the very least, the existence of so much nationalist sentiment needs to be encountered.