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By Jane Dowson, Alice Entwistle

ISBN-10: 0521819466

ISBN-13: 9780521819466

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A chronology that charts the development of nationalism – in attempted amplification of a definition – must place each movement in time and circumstance. The historian will point out that over the whole period – but particularly since the 1820s – the concept of history itself changed. It first insisted on the need to secure ‘objectivity’ and conceived that it might be found in the study of sources that would tell us how things really had been. At the very same time – somewhat paradoxically – nationalism also told people how things had been: there was a tension between the two.

86 The analysis is subtle. Yet it seems to have misled others, if not the author himself. Like Gellner, though with a different focus, Anderson appears to explain the existence and functioning of nations better than their creation or origin. It is, however, just that creation or origin that his readers, if not on occasion the author himself, have tended to take him as explaining. What is ‘imagined’ in his theory is the lateral sense of relationship with others in a community in which they cannot for the most part be known.

36 The alleged avatar, England/Britain, had organised itself with unprecedented effect as a state, rather than a nation. It borrowed its fiscal structure from a republic, though remaining a monarchy. It built up a system that linked taxation and representation so closely that the Americans had to break away. With these structures it defeated the states whose rivalry had helped to prompt their creation, and then built upon its security an albeit temporary industrial primacy. Later nation-states were not the result of the same process, nor of one that extended over so long a period.

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A History of Twentieth-Century British Women's Poetry by Jane Dowson, Alice Entwistle


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