Nationalism in Europe and America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities since 1775. By Lloyd Kramer. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 260. $65.00.)
Article first published online: 13 MAR 2013
© 2013 Phi Alpha Theta
Volume 75, Issue 1, pages 215–216, Spring 2013
How to Cite
Andrew, E. (2013), Nationalism in Europe and America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities since 1775. By Lloyd Kramer. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 260. $65.00.). Historian, 75: 215–216. doi: 10.1111/hisn.12004_73
- Issue published online: 13 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 13 MAR 2013
This study builds on the author's earlier work on political cultures in Europe and America, adding material on nationalism from 1870 to 1945 and from 1945 to 2011. Although Lloyd Kramer thinks the pattern of modern nationalism was set in the American and French Revolutions, two additional chapters provide a comprehensive survey of nationalist thought, which make this study a useful textbook for undergraduates in the arts and social sciences and not just for students of the long eighteenth century. Kramer's cultural interpretation of nationalism emphasizes the role of means of communication (the printing press, newspapers, and novels) over relations of production and exchange (the elimination of guild, corporate, and municipal barriers to national markets) and military technology (gunpowder) in the emergence of modern nation-states.
In his stimulating fourth chapter, on religion, sacrifice, and national life, Kramer indicates how flags and anthems become symbols of reverence and how nationalism counters individual self-interest with a sense of sacrifice, dedication, and service and provides an identity that survives one's death. He does not portray nationalism as a secular religion in the sense of nations replacing God as the ultimate authority; rather, religions and nations fused in Catholic Poland or Protestant America. Luther's distinction of theologies of the cross and theologies of glory might well apply to the poet Adam Mickiewicz's portrayal of a crucified Poland that will redeem the world and to American nationalist adherence to “manifest destiny” (88). Kramer does not espouse (or reject) Lenin's distinction between defensive and offensive nationalisms but indicates that Ho Chi Minh subscribed to Woodrow Wilson's liberal principles of the self-determination of nations until Indochinese claims to self-determination were ignored at the Treaty of Versailles and Lenin's socialist version of national self-determination seemed appropriate for Asian anticolonial struggles (159–160).
Canadians are less certain than Kramer that nationalism has its appropriate political form in sovereign nation-states (5). The Québécois see themselves as a nation but have lost two referenda on secession from Canada and are now recognized as a nation within the Canadian state. Intolerant reactions to the Quebec Act of 1774, which granted Catholics political rights for the first time within the British Empire, were an integral aspect of early American nationalism; “Federalist, no. 2” prescribed “one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion” (4). Kramer rightly recognizes that it is more difficult to identify the nationalism of one's own country than that of others. However, the question remains: can national identities coexist with one another, or, like a jealous God, must one national identity obliterate others? Can one be both a Scots (or Welsh) nationalist and a British nationalist? A Québécois and a Canadian? A German or French patriot and a proud European? Could multinational states be harbingers of postmodernity or just legacies of premodernity ordained to collapse into a nation-state?