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  • Le sentiment national dans l'Europe méridionale aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles (France, Espagne, Italie)
  • Jacob Soll
Alain Tallon , ed. Le sentiment national dans l'Europe méridionale aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles (France, Espagne, Italie). Collection de la Casa de Velázquez 97. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2007. xviii + 368 pp. illus. tbls. €27. ISBN: 978-84-95555-93-9.

Did national sentiment exist in early modern Europe? Some, such as Jean Frédéric Schaub, argue that nations did not exist in the modern sense of unified political and cultural entities before the nineteenth century. Yet, as Alain Tallon's compilation shows, there are nuanced examples of national sentiment throughout early modern intellectual and political culture. For anyone interested in the history of nationalism and in the ambiguity of both the origins and meaning of the nation, this book makes for informative and fascinating reading.

National sentiment has roots in medieval laws, trade empires, regionalism, war, and the Renaissance quest to link both linguistic and national origins with a glorious classical or Germanic past. As Arlette Jouanna and Gianvittorio Signorotto note, the Church struggled with national entities from the Investiture Crises and the rise of Italian city states of the late Middle Ages, as well as with the sense of national being of the French Gallican and Protestant traditions. Bertrand Haan illustrates that the Wars of Religion flamed Spanish national sentiment. Jean-Pierre Dedieu shows that the rise of the state brought with it a national vision in government, but that this was limited, as it confronted stronger realities of regional identity and authority. Gigliola Fragnito makes the important point that the Church fostered a politics of linguistic Italianization on the peninsula through its control of the authority to print books.

What emerges in these studies are the contours of the cultural and political [End Page 1323] processes of nationalism: a number of major elements of national culture that slowly evolved into the precarious modern imaginary of national identity. The examples are striking. Tamara Herzog shows that merchants seeking to protect their rights and monopolies tightened rules governing citizenship in Spanish Peru. Paolo Fernández Albaladejo traces the close relationship of antiquarianism and learning with the development of national identity among elites. Across Europe, from Italy, France, England, and Sweden to Spain, antiquarians looked to prove that ancient or medieval historical figures —in this case, Visigothic kings —were pioneers of national political entities. And Adriano Prosperi reminds us that national historiographies rose out of the Reformation and Counter-Reform. The rise of history and philology, fundaments of humanism, went hand in hand with the rise of national identity. Chantal Grell illustrates Annius di Viterbo's quest to show the Roman origins of France and Spain. And yet, as Richard Kagan so deftly shows, histories that used terms such as natio, patria, and regnum did so mostly in political terms. These were but the seeds of modern national consciousness. They had yet to grow into well-rooted nations.

Cesare Vasoli illustrates how the papacy's domination of Italy, and the repressive measures of the Counter-Reformation sparked an ambiguous sentiment of Italianism in Machiavelli and Scipione Ammirato. Myriam Yardeni makes the point that French Catholics prosecuted Protestants as a population alien to Catholic France. Sylvio Hermann de Franceschi shows how Paolo Sarpi, the Servite monk who defended Venetian rights against Rome, struggled with his nascent sense of Italianism in relation to the concept of Christendom. Jean François Dubost points out that international pamphlet polemics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reveal nationalism and international hatreds. Anyone familiar with Venetian or Roman political pamphlets, or those of the Fronde, know that national sentiment was strong enough to be used as a political weapon by those who could manipulate it. Even more, the continued meddling of the Spanish in French politics during the seventeenth century not only inspired anti Spanish sentiment: Denis Crouzet masterfully shows how it fed myths of the mystical powers of French kings. If a Catholic God preferred France to Spain, was not France a nation?

In the end, it is clear that modern historians of nationalism...


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pp. 1323-1324
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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