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Abstract. Anthony Smith has criticized my conclusion that most of the peoples currently recognized as constituting nations acquired national consciousness only in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. He traces our disagreement to fundamental differences concerning the essence of the nation. A comparison of our definitions confirms profound differences, and it is contended that Smith's definitions, by joining two quite dissimilar and often conflictual identities (civic and ethnic) preclude a dialogue concerning the nature and the history of ‘the nation’. A rejoinder to Smith's specific criticisms is followed by a restatement of the factors that make calculating when a given nation emerged so difficult. Finally, it is noted that the issue of when a nation came into being is not of key significance: while in factual/chronological history a nation may be of recent vintage, in the popular perception of its members, it is ‘eternal’, ‘beyond time’, ‘timeless’. And it is not facts but perceptions of facts that shape attitudes and behavior.