Nation-Building in Nineteenth Century Italy

Christopher Duggan recalls the contribution of a forgotten Italian statesman - Francesco Crispi.

The re-emergence of nationalism as a powerful and virulent factor in international relations – in the Balkans, the former Soviet empire, and elsewhere – together with the increasing momentum in Europe towards ever-greater political integration, has focused minds in the last decade on problems of national identity. The question famously posed in a lecture of 1882 by the French philosopher and historian, Ernest Renan, ‘What is a nation?’ has acquired a new relevance. Following the pioneering work of Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm and Ernest Gellner in the 1980s, issues of how (and when) national identities are constructed, the degree to which they co-exist and interact with other more local or cosmopolitan identities (religious, linguistic, ethnic), and whether material (economic, social) or non-material factors (ideas, images) can better explain their formation and continuance, have produced a good deal of  speculation and debate.

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