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Keywords:

  • national identity;
  • ancient monuments;
  • heritage studies eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries;
  • Avebury (UK);
  • Newgrange (Ireland)

This paper explores the complex and ambiguous development of a concept of nationhood during the early modern period (c.1675–1850). It does this through examining how aspects of identity politics were reflected in, and worked through, contemporary descriptions of the ancient sites of Avebury in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland. A relationship between these descriptions and the development of national identity is put forward and then problematized, with the apparent ‘nationalism’ of ancient heritage being seen as a far more complex phenomenon than first sight would suggest. Though primarily focusing on the construction and development of an idea of nationhood therefore, this paper works through drawing together and critically evaluating related strands of archaeology, heritage studies and historical-political geography.