Posts Tagged ‘Chapter 14: The Early Modern State’

National Personifications

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Before the 18th century or so, our primordial-seeming nation-states had no real historical precedents. The borders were drawn by mutlti-ethnic empires for thousands of years. Countries had a national awakening largely thanks to printing press technology allowing literature in the nation’s language to be disseminated, rather than in Latin.

We all know about Uncle Sam, America’s national personification, but almost every country has an analog to him.

Britain has the John Bull, represented by a portly British gentleman. Interestingly enough, his existence extends back to the early 18th century, about as far as the nation-state itself does.

Many countries, particularly Germanic ones, have a national personification that is based on a pre-Christian hero. Germany has Arminius, who was a general that won decisive victories for the Germanic tribes in the 1st century AD. Denmark has Ogier the Dane, a legendary Viking character from the early medieval period.