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A Contested Nation
History, Memory and Nationalism in Switzerland, 1761–1891


Part of Past and Present Publications

  • Date Published: August 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521039802

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the ways in which the Swiss defined their national identity in the long nineteenth century, in the face of a changing domestic and international background. Its narrative begins in 1761, when the first Swiss patriotic society of national significance was founded, and ends in 1891, when the Swiss celebrated their 600-year existence as a nation in a monumental national festival. While conceding that the creation of a nation-state in 1848 marked a watershed in the history of Swiss nation-formation, the author does not focus one-sidedly - as many others have done - on the activities of the nationalizing state. Instead, he attributes a key role to the competitive and contentious struggles over the shaping of public institutions and over the symbolic representation of the nation. These struggles, to which the nation-state and civil society contributed in equal measure, were framed increasingly along national lines.

    • An account of the complex topic of modern Swiss nationalism
    • Offers an argument about the dynamics of nation-formation in nineteenth-century Europe
    • A major study of the development of a nation whose existence still puzzles scholars of nationalism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'There are many strengths here, alongside the relative uniqueness of the subject. Zimmer's work is soundly based on historical, political and sociological theories of nation development. ... This is supplemented by extensive work in Swiss archives and historiography. And all is set in a helpful comparative perspective … Zimmer makes [a] … real contribution to our understanding of Swiss identity, then and now.' English Historical Review

    '… a very illuminating assessment not only of Swiss nationalism, but also of theoretical questions arising from the recent literature on nation formation. Zimmer's thorough reading across the theoretical canon makes A Contested Nation a highly relevant text not just for scholars interested in Switzerland, but for anybody working within the broader domains of nation formation.' H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online

    'A Contested Nation brilliantly illustrates the often-messy process of nationalization … [The book] is both accessible to advanced undergraduates and vital reading for established scholars. It is a detailed, readable, and balanced addition to the nationalism literature.' The Nationalism Project

    'A Contested Nation is an impressive book.' Jonathan Steinberg University of Pennsylvania, Nations and Nationalism

    'Zimmer enters into the tangled discussions of nationalism and nation-building with confidence and flair … His book represents a model of close historical research into the political and social conflicts of a state, linked to careful linguistic analysis of participants' statements. It is a model that future scholars of nationalism would do well to emulate.' Celia Applegate, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    'This book is a major contribution to scholarship on nineteenth-century European nationalism. It challenges simplistic approaches and instead asks the reader to pay close attention to the interplay and overlap of various national discourses.' Thomas Kiihne, Social History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521039802
    • length: 292 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.444kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    List of tables
    Introduction: history, memory and the politics of national identity
    1. Confederate identity before nationalism - events, politics, symbols
    Part I. Towards the Cult of the Nation:
    2. Dreaming of the wider fatherland - the nation of the patriots
    3. Contentious unity - the rise and fall of an indivisible nation
    4. 'The nation has had her say at last'
    Part II. The Birth of the Modern Mass Nation:
    5. 'We have become a people'
    6. Competing visions of the nation's past

  • Author

    Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford
    Oliver Zimmer was educated at the University of Zurich (Lic. Phil. I) and at the London School of Economics and Political Science (Ph.D.), and he began his academic career at the University of Durham in 1999. In 2005 he took up a University Lectureship (CUF) at Oxford. Previous publications include Nationalism in Europe, 1890–1940 (2003) and Power and the Nation in European History (edited with Len Scales, Cambridge University Press, 2005).

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