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December 26, 2016 / Congau

The Birth of a Nation

When was a nation born? At what time in history did a nation start being essentially what it is now? This question can probably not be answered for what is really a nation?

It may be defined as a group of people sharing a common language, blood relationship or common land area, but all these are rather uncertain quantities. Languages have changed, blood has been mixed and people have migrated.

If we still were to take the question seriously, we would have to decide on at least one of these three considerations. From when was the language sufficiently similar to the one spoken today as to be regarded as the same language? From when was the racial content approximately the same as today? When did the ancestors first enter the land? Neither of these questions can be appropriately answered and any attempt would probably be at odds with existing national mythology.

Let’s illustrate this by using the English nation as an example: The English language, approximately as we know it today, may have come into being in the 14th or 15th century. Was that also when the English nation was born? Most patriotic Englishmen would probably prefer an earlier date.

The racial make-up of England cannot have been established until several centuries after the Norman Conquest, but of course there is no racial unity even today. Race must therefore be disregarded.

When did the first ancestors of the English people set foot on the island? Well, whenever the first human beings did, thousands of years ago, that is, and no one would probably want to go that far back.

In national mythology the date of birth is often fixed at some political event, the Norman invasion, for example, since that can be easily determined. But a nation’s origin can hardly be dependent on the establishment of a state since many nations have fought to create their own state which means that the nation must have preceded it. (And of course many nations don’t have their own state even today.)

No, nations have never been born, but national mythology is not concerned with reason and science. It is a fairy tale.

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