'Jill Lepore is that rare combination in modern life of intellect, originality and style' Amanda Foreman
'A thoughtful and passionate defence of her vision of American patriotism' New York Times
From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling historian, Jill Lepore, comes a bold new history of nationalism, and a plan for hope in the twenty-first century.
With dangerous forms of nationalism on the rise, at a time of much despair over the future of liberal democracy, Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore makes a stirring case for the nation - and repudiates nationalism by explaining its long history.
In part a primer on the origins of nations, The Case for the Nation explains how much of American history has been a battle between nationalism, liberal and illiberal, all the way down to the nation's latest, bitter struggles over immigration.
Defending liberalism, as The Case for the Nation demonstrates, requires making the case for the nation. But American historians largely abandoned that defense in the 1960s when they stopped writing national history. By the 1980s they'd stopped studying the nation-state altogether and embraced globalism instead. When serious historians abandon the study of the nation, nationalism doesn't die. Instead, it eats liberalism. But liberalism is still in there, and The Case for the Nation is an attempt to pull it out.
A manifesto for a better world, and a call for a new engagement with national narratives, The Case for the Nation reclaims the future by acknowledging the past.
In this somewhat underdeveloped "long essay," historian Lepore (These Truths) sets out to summarize nationalism for a lay audience and rally historians to fight against its encroaching presence in American life. She takes readers through a history of nationalism's contradictory and overlapping meanings, skipping between debates among the country's founders and Donald Trump's recent self-identification as a nationalist in order to examine the moral and philosophical struggles of citizenship, nationalism, and identity in a country that has at one time or another espoused everything from universal suffrage to the stripping of citizenship from those who cannot pass for white. Lepore differentiates between patriotism and nationalism and, in a move that may surprise readers, blames the 20th- and 21st-century resurgences of nationalism on historians who failed to construct a convincing, patriotic counternarrative as a bulwark against it (a mantle she took up herself with These Truths). While Lepore's sense of personal urgency in taking up this topic is clear, the structure here is choppier and more repetitive than in previous works. Readers expecting Lepore's usual precision and depth in characterizing the historical record will be disappointed.