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National History - Nation Building And Professionalization, Varieties Of National History, Germany, Britain, Nation And History Today

histories historical foreign seen

The professionalization of history in nineteenth-and twentieth-century European universities was so closely related to the construction of the nation-state that national histories came to be seen as the only objective form of historical writing—indeed, criticism of national histories was seen not only as unpatriotic, but as a threat to the integrity of the historical profession and its claim to objectivity.

National histories regard the nation-state as the primary unit of historical analysis, and social, economic, intellectual, and other processes are contained within it. The nation is the subject of history, and the object of historical development is the realization of the nation-state. The nation is said to have long existed in a latent state, and its members are regarded as having an unchanging character. In Hegelian fashion, the nation becomes conscious of itself by overcoming obstacles such as linguistic diversity, fragmented trade patterns, and foreign occupation. National histories are morally judgmental and teleological. Specific periods of history are judged—in all senses of the term—according to the degree to which they advanced or retarded the national cause. "Great men" figure prominently in national histories: they act creatively because they understand the movement of history. National histories are also populated with villains—representatives of foreign powers and traitors to the national cause. While noxious in the short term, their efforts are doomed historically.

[back] Nation - Prepolitical Usages, The Nation And Political Authority, 1000–1500, Making Politics National, 1500–1800, New Ways Of Thinking About The Nation

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