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“Nations”

Every time I come across the word “Nation” from an older text I am immediately reminded of the claims that Nationalism is a modern phenomena that has precedent historically. Obviously the word nation and nationalism are distinct, one indicates an identifiable group of people, the other is an ideology that these people belong together politically, usually in a fixed space.

I just came across a 10th century text by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII. The works is partially based upon an earlier work title “On the Governance of the state and various nations“. The word nations stands out here and I wonder what is indicated by it for the Byzantine Emperor. For me at least, the use of the word nation puts a chink in the degree of novelty that nationalism embodies. The word has an older lineage and it refers to the existence of a distinct group of people. All of the nations mentioned by the Emperor might not be politically united, but at least some of the members of this nation present themselves as a cohesive force which must be addressed. Their loyalties to each other seem to stem from a common identity which gives them unity. Interesting nuance on the history of nationalism and nations.

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