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Histories of Nations: How their identities were forged

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I have a wee test on non-fiction reads that I like to assess on whether I liked a book or not.


If I happen to stumble into the author in a bar or a cafe, would I keep buying them drink to keep them talking so I could stay listening to them. If so, then it is a book I like, if not, then Nope, sorry. Not neccessarily the best model and doesn't work for all Non-Fiction read.


This isn't a book where that analogy really works, it is more like a speed dating book. You get to spend 5 minutes with each of the writers and then move on to the next. Honestly for quite a number of the writer, 5 minutes is far too many.


Some of these chapters are just plain awfully written (I know I shouldn't make judgements like that as I am also an awful writer but no one pays me for writing stuff). France in particular stood out where the writer seemed to be more interested in attacking regions and countries own identity than trying to ascertain where the French national identity originated from (For a part of this, Norman Davies Vanished Kingdoms is far better). For example, in one paragraph, the French writer criticses any foreigner for making comparisons between Napoleon and Hitler then in the same paragraph, goes on to say about the revocation of edict of Nantes by Louis XIV but instead just instead just partakes in whataboutery to avoid the subject in bringing up Britains policy towards Catholics (an something the person writing the chapter on Britain disagrees with saying that while Catholics might disagree about there being an absence on persecution on Religious grounds.) The French chapters deal a lot in this whataboutery nonsense which just is not good enough in a history book .


The writer on the Czech chapter describes any critical discussion on the concept of a Czech national identity as being a forum of a blasphemy. I believe if a person is secure in their national identity, then they wouldn't describe any questions about how the national identity is derived from as blasphemy. This description as being blasphemous seems to me to come from an insecurity on national identity. Poland and Hungary are also poorly written chapters.The chapter on the United States seems to come to the conclusion that the collective national identity is all the work of Thomas Jefferson (unsurprisingly the biography at the end states that writer here has written several books on Thomas Jefferson).


There are some interesting chapters, for example Ghana, Brazil and Mexico were fascinating. I think the chapters that work best are the ones with a healthy critical mind and contemplative, willing to admit that there is flaws in the source of national identity and instead of just focusing on the rights of the country but also the wrongs. Italy (as was Germany. Maybe the writers on both chapters because of the countries history see the problem with writing overtly nationalistic tripe) was also a really well written interest chapter on the search for a unifying national identity and the problems that search does bring.


Overall I don't think at the end of the night, would I tick any of their boxes that I'd be interested in listening to them talk on their own.


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