Writing the Early Modern English Nation

The Transformation of National Identity in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England


Editor: Herbert Grabes
While there is overwhelming evidence that nationalism reached its peak in the later nineteenth century, views about when precisely national thinking and sentiment became strong enough to override all other forms of collective unity differ considerably. When one looks for the historical moment when the concept of the nation became a serious – and subsequently victorious – competitor to the monarchic dynasty as the most effective principle of collective unity, one must, at least for England, go back as far as the sixteenth century. The decisive change occurred when a split between the dynastic ruler and “England” could be widely conceived of and intensely felt, a split that established the nation as an autonomous – and more precious – body. Whereas such a differentiation between king and country was still imperceptible under Henry VIII, it was already an historical reality during the reign of Queen Mary.
That the most important factors in this radical change were the Reformation and the printing press is by now well known. The particular aim of this volume is to demonstrate the pivotal role of pamphleteering – and the growing importance of public opinion in a steadily widening sense – within the process of the historical emergence of the concept of the nation as a culturally and politically guiding force. When it came to the voicing of dissident opinions, above all under Queen Mary and later during the reign of King James and Charles I, the printed pamphlet proved to be a far superior form of communication.
This does not mean that books played no role in the early development and dissemination of the concept of an English nation. Especially the compendious new English histories written at the time did much to support the growth of cultural identity.

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”… the complete absence of self-defining personal investments and … refreshingly objective … a very different light.” in: SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 43, winter 2003, No. 1
“The volume is remarkable for its thematic coherence as well as for the wealth of material discussed and for the scrupulouis documentation of this material.” in: Anglia, Band 121 (2003), Heft 3, pp.483-6
Preface and Acknowledgements. Herbert GRABES: Introduction: “Writing the Nation” in a Literal Sense. Stefanie RÜCK: Patriotic Tendencies in Pamphleteering during the Reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Herbert GRABES: England or the Queen? Public Conflict of Opinion and National Identity under Mary Tudor. Claus UHLIG: National Historiography and Cultural Identity: The Example of the English Renaissance. Martina MITTAG: National Identity and the Sovereign in Anti-Spanish Pamphlets 1558-1625. Franz WIESELHUBER: Models of National Identity in Restoration Pamphlets. Philipp WOLF: The Emergence of National Identity in Early Modern England: Causes and Ideological Representations. Herbert GRABES: “Elect Nation”: The Founding Myth of National Identity in Early Modern England. Works Cited.