Building Nations Through Words

Iberian Identities in Nineteenth-Century Literary Historiography 1

Authored by: Santiago Pérez Isasi

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



The birth and expansion of nationalism between 1800 and 1918 is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of contemporary European history. In just a little more than 100 years, a relatively marginal ideology managed to become the fundamental principle guiding international relations, with extremely significant, and sometimes tragic, consequences. Of course, nationalism did not materialize out of thin air: it had its roots in eighteenth-century ideas, such as “Herder’s belief in the individuality of nations, Rousseau’s belief in the sovereignty of the nation, [and] a general discourse of national peculiarities and ‘characters’ ” (Leersen 2006, 125–6). However, the core doctrine of nationalism, as A. Smith calls it, only developed and became prominent during the nineteenth century, and it consisted of a set of propositions which have been summarized as follows:

The world is divided into nations, each with its own individuality, history and destiny.

The nation is the source of all political and social power, and loyalty to the nation overrides all other allegiances.

Human beings must identify with a nation if they want to be free and realize themselves.

Nations must be free and secure if peace and justice are to prevail in the world. (1991, 74)

Fascinating as they may be, we will not have time or space to deal with the debates on the relevance, or even existence, of pre-national ethnic communities and traditions (which Anthony Smith defends and Ernest Gellner (1983), among others, denies or minimizes), nor with the conditions that triggered the appearance of national movements that sometimes coincided with preexisting dynastic states (such as Spain, Portugal, France or England), or promoted the creation of new entities by means of unification (Italy or Germany) or separation (Catalonia or Scotland).

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.