The best books on why identity issues are so hot in history

Stefan Berger Author Of History and Identity: How Historical Theory Shapes Historical Practice
By Stefan Berger

The Books I Picked & Why

National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century: A Global Comparison

By Niels F. May, Thomas Maissen

Book cover of National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century: A Global Comparison

Why this book?

We are living in a world in which right-wing populisms thrive from North America to India and from Latin America to Europe. Everywhere they promote nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious fundamentalism. This is a book that analyzes the new nationalism in different parts of the world and dissects to what extent essentialist national identities are constructed with often devastating results in terms of violent conflict in a range of societies.


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World History and National Identity in China

By Xin Fan

Book cover of World History and National Identity in China

Why this book?

Over the last twenty years, China has become one of the most powerful nation-states in the world, both economically and politically. Since 1949 it has been ruled by a Communist Party which is still claiming today that is pursuing socialism with a Chinese face. It unites a turbo-capitalism with a strong nationalism that seeks to bring the Chinese people behind the Communist Party. This book shows how alien nationalism is to many of China’s most distinguished intellectual traditions over the course of the twentieth century. Especially those historians working on non-Chinese topics have for a long time attempted to use their cross-cultural competencies to counter nationalist historical narratives.


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The Shadow of the Mine: Coal and the End of Industrial Britain

By Huw Beynon, Ray Hudson

Book cover of The Shadow of the Mine: Coal and the End of Industrial Britain

Why this book?

Powerful class identities were formed over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a range of industrial countries. In the motherland of the industrial revolution, in Britain, those constructions of class were particularly strong among particular occupations. Miners were often seen as the vanguard of class-conscious proletarians the closely-knit mining communities in different parts of the UK seemed to many observers to represent an alternative solidaristic society in the making. This book traces the ruthless destruction of these mining communities in Britain by the neoliberal governments of Margaret Thatcher and is in many respects a tribute to these communities and their values.


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Red Banners, Books and Beer Mugs: The Mental World of German Social Democrats, 1863-1914

By Andrea G. Bonnell

Book cover of Red Banners, Books and Beer Mugs: The Mental World of German Social Democrats, 1863-1914

Why this book?

In the nineteenth century, no class culture was more prominent than the one by German Social Democracy. The German Social Democratic Party topped one million individual members before the outbreak of the First World War and about one-third of the electorate in Imperial Germany vote for its programme of revolution and democratization. This book is about the mental world of the party’s rank and file, their fears, wishes and desires, their dreams, and their beliefs. It talks powerfully about leadership cults, the tensions between nationalism and internationalism, working-class reading habits, and the ideals of republicanism. It is a powerful recreation of a constructed class identity with huge repercussions on politics in Germany.


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Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond

By Gabriele Dietze, Julia Roth

Book cover of Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond

Why this book?

Women’s emancipation has made substantial strides in many parts of the global west since the 1970s. Yet, despite the fact that women still remain disadvantaged and discriminated against in many spheres of life, there has been, more recently, a powerful backlash against feminist ideas and practices. Nowhere is this more visible than in the populist right-wing movements that have merged anti-feminist, racist, and national discourses to provide a powerful ideological mix of masculinist identity politics that attacks gender and sexual diversity and seeks to influence sex education in schools. This book analyzes these discourses but it also provides intriguing insights into why somethings women are attracted to anti-feminist new right populisms.


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