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Nationalizing Empires


Sample chapter: Introduction. Building Nations in and with Empires—A Reassessment by Stefan Berger and Alexei Miller

Edited by
Stefan Berger is director of the Institute of Social History, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany
Alexei Miller is Professor at the European University in Saint Petersburg and Recurrent Visiting Professor at Central European University, Budapest.

The essays in Nationalizing Empires challenge the dichotomy between empire and nation state that for decades has dominated historiography. The authors center their attention on nation-building in the imperial core and maintain that the nineteenth century, rather than the age of nation-states, was the age of empires and nationalism. They identify a number of instances where nation building projects in the imperial metropolis aimed at the preservation and extension of empires rather than at their dissolution or the transformation of entire empires into nation states. Such observations have until recently largely escaped theoretical reflection.

This collection of essays by outstanding scholars includes case studies of Europe-based empires, whether those of Bourbon Spain, Napoleonic France, Italy, Great Britain, Oldenburg Denmark, Germany, Habsburg Austro-Hungary, Late-Ottoman Turkey or Romanov Russia. While some of the contributions include earlier periods, the primary focus is on the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"The relationship between empire and nation-building is ripe for rethinking. This highly original volume argues with great cogency and conviction that, far from nations simply growing out of declining and dissolving empires, these two forms of political belonging were intricately if complicatedly entwined throughout the nineteenth century. Nations—aspirant as well as actual—were conceived and forged in the crucible of those great ethno-cultural formations we call empires. Imperial conceptions of nationality and new nationalising visions of empire were symptomatic of an age when processes of nation- and empire-building ricocheted off each other in multiple ways. This volume has important implications for the historiography of nationalism and for the new imperial history. It makes powerful case for bringing these two strands of scholarship into much closer conversation with each other."
Andrew Thompson, Professor of Modern History and Director of the Centre for Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter

"The co-editors have assembled an impressive range of scholars who explore the entangled histories of empires and nationalisms, including the emergence of imperial nationalisms and their legacies in the histories of “post-imperial” nation-states. Also an important and rich contribution to transnational history."
Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University

"Nationalizing Empires is an important contribution to the growing literature on the European empires. It jeopardizes the conventional approach of a fundamental opposition between empires and nation-building in focusing on their entanglements and interactions. So, the sixteen case studies and comparative chapters, written by well-known specialists from nine countries, shed a fresh new light on the history of the long nineteenth century."
Andreas Kappeler, Vienna University

700 pages, cloth
$85.00 / €65.00 / £55.00

"This thought-provoking volume challenges the familiar opposition by exploring processes of 'building nations in and with empires.' Central to the analysis is the concept of the 'imperial nation." Written by leading historians of nationalism, the book explores ways in which imperial rulers and those who served them pursued nation-building projects to preserve and strengthen their empires. Focusing most closely, though not excluseively, on the 'long nineteenth century,' the sixteen chapters include a conceptual introduction by the editors, ten surveys of European empires and nationalizing processes within them, and five thematic chapters. Summing up: Highly recommended." - Choice

"Are we sure we can analytically distinguish national kingdoms from multinational empires? Anyone seeking an answer to questions of this sort will find a wealth of material in this significant volume.
The volume edited by Stefan Berger and Alexei Miller, two eminent scholars of Germany’s and Russia’s modern history, sets out to challenge the empire-nation state dichotomy. It is not the first book to do so, but the scope of its argument is unprecedented. It is based on a number of insightful case studies, predictable ones on the British, French, Spanish, German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, as well as surprising ones on Denmark and Venice. This mere list indicates that the conventional dichotomy of sea and land empires is also being quickly dissolved, with inspiring results.
The main argument of the book can be summed up as follows: in all of the cases under discussion, nation resonated with empire. The two corresponded with each other and were far from mutually exclusive. The imperial context shaped the formation of the core nation (or two core nations in the case of the Habsburg Monarchy) and gave them a lasting imprint." - Hungarian Historical Review

"The editors of this wide-ranging volume question—up to a certain point—the binary approach traditionally adopted by most historians of Europe who write about the categories “nation” and “empire.” Stefan Berger and Alexei Miller seek to loosen or perhaps even undo the traditionally dichotomous treatment these categories have received as “two profoundly different types of political organization of society and space”. Their strategy in this collection is to draw historians’ attention to processes of ethnic nation building that took place in imperial cores. The volume reads as the product of several workshops and conferences where, over time, the scholars involved engaged actively with each other’s approaches. It includes sizable essays devoted to Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, the Habsburg Monarchy, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, and Spain, as well as five shorter essays that usefully comment on general questions of comparison." - Slavic Review

"Die Herausgeber gehen davon aus, dass die Gegenüberstellung von Imperium und Nation keinen ausreichenden Zugriff auf die Realitäten des 19. Jahrhunderts gibt, da vielfältig imperiale Eliten die Nationalisierung der von ihnen bestimmten Staaten betrieben, Nation also als Instrument zur Stärkung der Imperien einsetzten.
Die Beispiele bestätigen, dass es im „langen 19. Jahrhundert“ mehrere Wege zur Nation gab und die Eliten der bestehenden Imperien vielfach versuchten, Nationalstaatsbildungen zur Stärkung ihrer Staaten einzusetzen, wie Clausewitz vorausgesehen hatte. Ein sehr lesenswerter Band." - Zeitschrift für Weltgeschichte

"Основная теоретическая задача книги, которая формулируется на первых страницах, — «пересмотреть отношения между национальными государствами, национализмом и империями в европейской истории». Вошедшие в коллективный труд тексты фокусируются на процессах нациестроительства, проходивших в ядре европейских империй в течение долгого XIX в.
Поскольку взаимное влияние империи на национализм и национализма на империю было действительно всеобъемлющим и многосторонним, выход книги “Nationalizing Empires” можно считать большим вкладом в процесс дальнейшего изучения обоих феноменов." - Антропологический форум