Free Access to the Past

Romanticism, Cultural Heritage and the Nation


Throughout Europe, nostalgia and modernization embraced around 1800: the rise of historicism coincided with the emergence of the modern nation-state. Poetical, cultural changes intersected with political, institutional ones: a Romantic taste for medieval or tribal antiquity benefited from a modernization-driven transfer of cultural relics into the public sphere. This process involved the establishment of museums, libraries, archives and university institutes, as well as the dissemination of historical knowledge through text editions, philological studies, historical novels, plays, operas and paintings, monuments and restorations. Antiquaries, philologists and historians produced a new past and rendered history a matter of public, national interest and collective identification.
This international and interdisciplinary collection explores the romantic-historicist complexities at the root of the modern nation-state.

Contributors are Ellinoor Bergvelt, Eveline G. Bouwers, Peter Fritzsche, Paula Henrikson, Sharon Ann Holt, Lotte Jensen, Krisztina Lajosi, Joep Leerssen, Susanne Legêne, Marita Mathijsen, Mathias Meirlaen, Peter Rietbergen, Anne-Marie Thiesse, and Robert Verhoogt.
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EUR €115.00USD $155.00

Biographical Note

Lotte Jensen, Ph.D. (2001) in Literary Studies, University of Amsterdam, is Assistant Professor of Dutch Literary History at the Radboud University Nijmegen. She has published widely in the areas of nineteenth-century Dutch literature, press history, and women authors.

Joep Leerssen, PhD (1986) in Literary Studies, University of Utrecht, is Professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam. His research is on national stereotypes, the spread of romantic nationalism, and Irish cultural history.

Marita Mathijsen, Ph.D.(1987) in Literary Studies, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, is Professor of Modern Dutch Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She has published a wide range of books and articles on nineteenth-century literature and is a specialist on textual editing.

Review Quotes

This is [...] an important volume for anyone interested in understanding the wider social and cultural contexts of folklore study in the nineteenth century—which still often affect our discipline—but also for scholars concerned with the role of nostalgia in culture, modernization, national histories, and cultural heritage.
David Elton Gay, Journal of Folklore Research: An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, January 16, 2012

The second in the series National Cultivation of Culture, [...] is an important collection that focuses on changes in attitudes to the past linked to Romanticism and other aspects of development at the cusp of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Based on conference papers, the individual chapters are of great interest [...].
Jeremy Black, European Review of History—Revue Européenne d’Histoire, Vol. 19 No. 3, p. 464-465

...this is a volume with interesting case studies...
Maarten Van Ginderachter, European History Quarterly, Vol. 42 No. 1, p. 165-167

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

Introduction, Joep Leerssen


1. The Melancholy of History: Disenchantment and the Possibility of Narrative after the French Revolution, Peter Fritzsche
2. The Emancipation of the Past, as due to the Revolutionary French Ideology of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Marita Mathijsen
3. Modernising the Past: The Life of the Gauls under the French Republic, Anne-MarieThiesse
4. From Bökendorf to Berlin: Private Careers, Public Sphere, and how the Past changed in Jacob Grimm’s Lifetime, Joep Leerssen


5. Public Commemorations and Private Interests: The Politics of State Funerals in London and Paris, 1806-1810, Eveline G. Bouwers
6. Inventing Literary Heritage: National Consciousness and Editorial Scholarship in Sweden 1810-1830, Paula Henrikson
7. Literature as Access to the Past: The Rise of Historical Genres in the Netherlands, 1800-1850, Lotte Jensen


8. Free Access to the History of Art: Art Reproduction and the Appropiation of the History of Art in the Nineteenth-Century Culture, R.M. Verhoogt
9. Potgieter’s ‘Rijksmuseum’ and the Public Presentation of Dutch History in the National Museum (1800-1844), Ellinoor Bergvelt
10. Singing of Conquest? Opera, History, and the Ambiguities of European Imperialism, Peter Rietbergen
11. Nineteenth-Century National Opera and Representations of the Past in the Public Sphere, Krisztina Lajosi
12. ‘Reaping the Harvest of the Experiment?’ The Government’s Attempt to train Enlightened Citizens through History Education in Revolutionary France (1789-1802), Matthias Meirlaen


13. The Past as a Place: Challenging Private Ownership of History in the United States, Sharon Ann Holt
14. Impressed Images / Expressed Experiences: The Historical Imagination of Politics, Susanne Legêne



All those interested in Romanticism, the cultural history of nation-formation and the analysis of national thought.


Collection Information