Construction of Nationhood, by Adrian Hastings

Posted by dianamuir on December 25, 2012
Bible, Medieval nationhood

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.


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