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The Cult of the Nation in France

The Cult of the Nation in France

Inventing Nationalism, 1680–1800

David A. Bell

ISBN 9780674012370

Publication date: 09/01/2003

Using eighteenth-century France as a case study, David Bell offers an important new argument about the origins of nationalism. Before the eighteenth century, the very idea of nation-building—a central component of nationalism—did not exist. During this period, leading French intellectual and political figures came to see perfect national unity as a critical priority, and so sought ways to endow all French people with the same language, laws, customs, and values. The period thus gave rise to the first large-scale nationalist program in history.


  • A notable addition to the expanding literature on nationalism in general and of French nationalism in particular, The Cult of the Nation in France explores how national affiliation became part of individual identity. It demonstrates the connections between nationalism and religion, without falling into the simple trap of treating nationalism as another religion. Against the present-day challenges faced by French republican nationalism, Bell insightfully examines the paradoxical process whereby the French came to posit themselves as a union of politically and spiritually like-minded citizens.

    —Joan B. Landes, Pennsylvania State University


  • 2002, Winner of the Leo Gershoy Award


  • David A. Bell is Professor of History, Princeton University.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press