The rise of the nation-state during the Age of Revolution: Revisiting the debate on the roots of nations and nationalism

Nations and Nationalism, 1-15.


Recent historical studies tend to confirm the antimodernist interpretation, emphasizing the strong premodern roots of nations and nationalism. However, a broad comparative analysis of the rise of the nation-state during the Age of Revolution shows that earlier notions of nationhood did not have a significant role in the creation of nation-states in Europe and the Americas. They were not the consequence of a glorious national revolt, but of a clash between the Old Regime and new ideals of political legitimacy. Many of these conflicts led to civil wars and the survival of the nation-state was mostly determined by the geopolitical constellation. The boundaries of the nation were defined in terms of civilization, whereas language and culture were largely irrelevant. Within these new nation-states, a universalist nationalization process began. In many instances, citizenship was awarded easier to foreigners than to “uncivilized” inhabitants, while Classical Antiquity was preferred over the national past.

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