National history – just a modern invention?

History & Cultural Heritage

INTRODUCTION

“This instinct to see things as unchanging blinds us to the revolutionary transformations in societies happening all around us.”,
Cultures, nations and religions are not rocks — they’re always changing, May 25, 2018 / Hans Rosling + Anna Rosling Rönnlund + Ola Rosling (https://ideas.ted.com/cultures-nations-and-religions-are-not-rocks-theyre-always-changing/)

Imagine you had a time machine… You turn a spinner and you are in the Middle ages having the perspective of an average European peasant. So, let’s look through his (indeed your) eyes. You live in a small village somewhere in the middle of Europe. Well, you have just a bare idea of where you are and that’s not of much importance to you anyway. You have heard of your king and even seen him once. However, are you French, English, German, or Swiss?… Well, you don’t care much… Stunning, hm? What about your national history? Well, maybe it is not what it seems.


Here is the point where your research in the concept of a nation begins…

In this WebQuest, we will be exploring the concept of “nation” and its roots in the ideas of Enlightenment. That means that we will discover its historical origins having in mind also the cultural and philosophic backgrounds of this process.

But before that, here are a few things you will need to know:

 

TASK

The goal of this WebQuest is to help you discover the importance of revising the ideas you work with. Such important idea historians use as a basis for their discourse the one of a nation.

To discover the origins of this idea, you will have to explore some of the basic ideas of Enlightenment first.

The learners should work in groups of 5 to 10 people. Each one of them should explore the ideas of one of the Enlightenment thinkers and prepare a PP presentation (or other multimedia) presenting one of them to the others. The information should be well organized, factual, and well-formed. It is important to demonstrate a good level of internet and technology use. Then the group should vote for the one who has the most powerful ideas.

PROCESS

At this step, each learner needs to use the online resources for this Webquest and research basic ideas of the epoch of Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, lasted approximately from the latter 16th to the mid-18th century. The major characteristics of this period include an interest in natural laws, a desire to understand the world in rational terms, and the use of pure reason as a philosophy that could apply to science, politics, and economics. A powerful idea from this era was the concept of natural human rights, such as the ability for people to govern themselves. This in turn would lead to events such as the American and French Revolutions.

 

Watch this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnoFj2cMRLY 

For further explanations, you can read these articles:

https://archive.is/20130102060858/www.associatedcontent.com/article/15970/introduction_to_enlightenment_thought.html
https://www.bl.uk/restoration-18th-century-literature/articles/the-enlightenment
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answering_the_Question:_What_Is_Enlightenment%3F
https://www.bl.uk/restoration-18th-century-literature/articles/the-enlightenment

Dare to know”, (Immanuel Kant)

You are one of the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment! Use multimedia (PowerPoint, Prezi, other tools) to present your life and ideas. Be careful to present them clearly and argue why they are important. You can also use some powerful quotes and analyze their meaning.

You can use the following resources or search for additional ones:
https://theenlightenmentthinkers.weebly.com/index.html
https://www.thoughtco.com/key-thinkers-of-the-enlightenment-1221868
https://www.britannica.com/event/Enlightenment-European-history
https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/enlightenment
https://quizlet.com/54435318/flashcards

At this stage, learners should discuss which of the thinkers impresses them most and why and then vote for one of them. They should also discuss which ideas have the most powerful impact nowadays and how they are connected to our epoch.

If you look at any map of the world you will probably see it divided by thick black lines.

They represent national boundaries. Have you ever thought about how did they appear?
Each of the learners should go through the resources and find out that such a basic notion as the one of nation is just an invention. By doing this, students will also realize that history itself is, first of all, a ‘story’, a ‘narrative’ based on ideas important for the time we live in. We have a national history just because it is an element a nation needs for its consolidation. And if national history becomes less important nowadays, that is a symptom that maybe something wrong that happens to the idea of nation itself. Anyway, let’s come back to the nation’s origins.

Below is a selection of links to websites, videos, and documents that outline the problems:
https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=history_oapubs
https://medium.com/sunnya97/defining-the-nation-state-57345dfd6ef6
https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Z4inKJvOnYDqQJ2k77OFYK/Liberty-and-the-nation-state.html

Have a look at this short article:
https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095958187

… and watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoecZ6oDW38

Perhaps, you start seeing the origins of the idea of nation in the time of Enlightenment.
Nations could not be possible if Enlightenment had not changed:

  • Our idea of space: After the age of Enlightenment space becomes homogenous. This is a fundamental prerequisite for the modern state since it struggles to include every point of its stated as homogenous territory.
  • The idea of time: Homogenous time is a prerequisite for belonging to a community in which no immediate communication is possible.
  • The role of national languages: Printed books made national languages dominant for the communities.

Have a look at the following links:
http://blogs.ubc.ca/gceotherwise/files/2018/04/stein-hunt-susa-andreotti-fantasies.pdf
http://dougald.nu/the-vital-compass-a-conversation-with-vanessa-andreotti/

Discuss what caused the most serious cracks of the walls of Enlightenment and Nation-state and if the house will survive.

CONCLUSION

Through this webquest you experienced the fact that history often works with ideas that must be subject to constant attention, such as the one of nation. When we talk about national history, we must constantly bear in mind the fact that of applying an idea that developed in a particular time to history as a whole. We are immersed in history and we don’t have any stable point for interpreting it. In fact, times are changing and sometimes that happens even faster than we can imagine.

Finally, watch this video:
https://www.ted.com/talks/taiye_selasi_don_t_ask_where_i_m_from_ask_where_i_m_a_local

Are you also local… or global… or none of these…? Anyway, the next time when you go to a foreign country and people ask you “where do you come from?”, please, remind yourself of this webquiz and the secret origins of nations in the age of Enlightenment.

 

Skills:

  • Presentation skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Research


In addition, learners will:

  • realize that we should be careful when we apply later ideas to times prior to them;
  • learn how to engage and collaborate with others;
  • communicate an idea by means of a debate or a role play;
  • develop a sense of confidence and belief in themselves and their ideas;
  • learn how to communicate effectively (using written and spoken word, non-verbal language, electronic tools, and listening skills).
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Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90
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Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90
escool.it@scool-it.eu

Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90
escool.it@scool-it.eu

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