Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Myth of Nations by Patrick J. Geary~★★★★

Author: Patrick J. Geary
Title: The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe
Release Date: January 13th, 2003
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Cover: "Modern-day Europeans by the millions proudly trace back their national identities to the Celts, Franks, Gauls, Goths, Huns, or Serbs---or some combination of the various peoples who inhabited, traversed, or pillaged their continent more than a thousand years ago. According to Patrick Geary, this is historical nonsense. The idea that national character is fixed for all time in a simpler, distant past is groundless. In this unflinching study, Geary dismantles the nationalist myths about how the nations of Europe were born. Through rigorous analysis set in lucid prose, he contrasts the myths with the actual history of Europe's transformation between the fourth and ninth centuries---the period of grand migrations that nationalists hold dear. This book will be intensely debated by all who understand that an unchanging history that reduces the complexities of many centuries to a single, eternal moment isn't history at all." 

Taryn's Review: I love books that shake things up and create a stir. Patrick J. Geary walked in and turned history upside down by throwing out a new concept for people to consider.

I'm warning everyone now: I know nothing about European history. I am an United States historian and even as an undergrad, I only took one European history class and it began in the fifteenth century, I believe. Either way, none of the classes I took prepared me for anything Geary talked about. I don't know if he's accurate in what he talked about but honestly, that wasn't the crux of what interested me. Geary is a medieval historian at UCLA, so I should hope he knows what he's saying regarding the history he uses to prove his point.What did grab my attention was Geary's suggestion that the history of people and the use of genealogy might need reviewed.

Geary looked at the various groups and talked about the different reasons people changed names and left or joined other groups. Sometimes it was willingly, sometimes not. The book really made me think about identity, ethnicity, and the ideas that created each. It's not a very easy book to read, but if you like a challenge, it's a good one. It makes you consider some new ideas, which is always good for the mind, too!

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