The most recommended books about nationalism

Who picked these books? Meet our 62 experts.

62 authors created a book list connected to nationalism, and here are their favorite nationalism books.
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Book cover of The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From my list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Liah Greenfeld Why did Liah love this book?

This book, originally published in 1960, is the classical statement of the still dominant position in economic history, which assumes that economic growth is natural and which I have proven wrong.

I recommend it to anyone interested in the current (unchanging for decades) state of the discipline as an essential model of what I was arguing against.

By W W Rostow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stages of Economic Growth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2017 Reprint of 1960 First Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition software. In the text Professor Rostow gives an account of economic growth based on a dynamic theory of production and interpreted in terms of actual societies.  Five basic stages of economic growth are distinguished with detailed discussions of each stage including illustrative examples.  Rostow also applies the concept of stages of growth to an examination of the problems of military aggression and the nuclear arms race.  The final chapter includes a comparison of his non-communist manifesto with Marxist theory.   Remains a classic text…


Book cover of Nation-Empire: Ideology and Rural Youth Mobilization in Japan and Its Colonies

Jeremy A. Yellen Author Of The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War

From my list on the Japanese Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jeremy A. Yellen is a historian at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on modern Japan’s international, diplomatic, and political history. He maintains a strong interest in the history of international relations and international order.

Jeremy's book list on the Japanese Empire

Jeremy A. Yellen Why did Jeremy love this book?

Sayaka Chatani begins with a simple question. Why did tens of thousands of young men from across the empire in the 1930s and 1940s enthusiastically embrace Japanese nationalism and volunteer for service in the Japanese military? She finds the answer in village youth associations, which served as a vehicle for youth mobilization in rural Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Her most original argument is that ideological campaigns mattered less than the social mobility and the chance for empowerment that youth associations offered. More strikingly, assimilation was not limited to the colonies. Japanese youths in Tohoku, Chatani shows, were “Japanized” in similar ways to those in Korea and Taiwan. This is an innovative and imaginative book. I cannot praise it highly enough.  

By Sayaka Chatani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nation-Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands of young men in the Japanese colonies, in particular Taiwan and Korea, had expressed their loyalty to the empire by volunteering to join the army. Why and how did so many colonial youth become passionate supporters of Japanese imperial nationalism? And what happened to these youth after the war? Nation-Empire investigates these questions by examining the long-term mobilization of youth in the rural peripheries of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Personal stories and village histories vividly show youth's ambitions, emotions, and identities generated in the shifting conditions in each locality. At…


Book cover of Revolutionary Nativism: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925-1937

Joseph Fronczak Author Of Everything Is Possible: Antifascism and the Left in the Age of Fascism

From my list on the worst sort of politics: fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian who wrote a book on antifascism. In a way, I decided to write a book on the history of antifascism because I thought it was a good way to make sense of the history of fascism. Something along the lines of: Nobody knows you like your worst enemies. But I also thought that more books on the history of antifascism itself would be a good thing. There are many books on fascism and relatively few on anti-fascism. Ultimately, I decided to write Everything Is Possible because I thought that the first antifascists had useful lessons to share about how to turn the world toward something better than the one you’ve been given.

Joseph's book list on the worst sort of politics: fascism

Joseph Fronczak Why did Joseph love this book?

This is a wonderful book attentive to the cultural dimensions of fascism.

It is also a good book for making sense of fascism’s global attraction. Within a few years of its creation in Italy, fascism began to attract adherents around the world. To give just a few examples, there were Goldshirts in Mexico, Grayshirts in South Africa, Blackshirts everywhere from Kenya to the United States, and Greenshirts in Egypt and France. In Ireland were Blueshirts. And in China there were Blueshirts as well.

In Revolutionary Nativism, the historian Maggie Clinton details the Chinese Blueshirts’ ideological vision of exclusionary nationalism, hyper-modernist regeneration, and military authoritarianism.

The Blueshirts’ attempts to realize their vision, Clinton writes, amounted to a “Cultural Revolution from the Right.”

By Maggie Clinton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revolutionary Nativism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Revolutionary Nativism Maggie Clinton traces the history and cultural politics of fascist organizations that operated under the umbrella of the Chinese Nationalist Party (GMD) during the 1920s and 1930s. Clinton argues that fascism was not imported to China from Europe or Japan; rather it emerged from the charged social conditions that prevailed in the country's southern and coastal regions during the interwar period. These fascist groups were led by young militants who believed that reviving China's Confucian "national spirit" could foster the discipline and social cohesion necessary to defend China against imperialism and Communism and to develop formidable industrial…


Book cover of Cathleen Ni Houlihan

John Hutchinson Author Of The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of the Irish Nation State

From my list on nationalism and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like an outsider and so have been preoccupied by questions of identity and belonging. In my youth, I became fascinated by the great Irish writers W. B. Yeats and James Joyce and their struggles with such questions after my family moved from Ulster to Scotland. As a young academic in Brisbane, I encountered fierce debates about Australian national identity as it shifted from a British heritage to a multicultural society. In the flux of the modern world, our identities are always under challenge and often require painful renovation.

John's book list on nationalism and identity

John Hutchinson Why did John love this book?

This play conveys the inner world of nationalism in both its romance and fanaticism.

Yeats’s play became a cult for young revolutionary nationalists in celebrating blood sacrifice for the nation. A young man joins an uprising on the eve of his wedding after meeting an old woman, Cathleen ni Houlihan (a folk name for Ireland), who pleads for his help to recover her green fields. By his sacrifice, Cathleen is transformed into a beautiful young woman with "the face of a queen." 

Yeats later agonised over this play and developed a more ambivalent attitude to nationalism. When young nationalists staged a sacrificial rebellion in 1916, he warned in his poem "Easter 1916" that "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart." He asked in a later poem, "Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?" 

By William Butler Yeats,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cathleen Ni Houlihan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cathleen Ni Houlihan is a one-act play written by the renowned Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats. The play was first performed in 1902 and is set in rural Ireland during the early 20th century. The story revolves around a family who is preparing for the wedding of their son, Michael, and his fianc�����e, Delia. However, their plans are interrupted when a mysterious woman named Cathleen Ni Houlihan arrives at their door seeking their help.Cathleen is a symbol of Ireland and her struggle for independence from British rule. She tells the family of her sons who have died fighting…


Book cover of Behold, America: The Entangled History of America First and the American Dream

Alex Krieger Author Of City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present

From my list on aspirations and unfulfilled promises in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in the topic of these books has grown across four decades of teaching about cities and urban planning at Harvard, and in active practice as an architect and urban designer. At any moment a city’s very physicality reflects both a culture’s aspirations and the limitations of that culture to achieve those aspirations. Cities are, in a way, compromises in time: among efforts to preserve a past, overcome the challenges of the present, and pursuit of plans for the future. My book focuses on the role of American ideals especially in city and community building, while the five I recommend offer crucial counterpoints about the difficulties and setbacks encountered in reaching for national ideals.  

Alex's book list on aspirations and unfulfilled promises in America

Alex Krieger Why did Alex love this book?

The book explores the complicated historic interaction among what for many are understood to be opposing tendencies of American life. On the one hand, the promise of the ‘American Dream,’ long held as an ethos of America and associated with expectations of liberty, equality, and access to opportunity. While the phrase ‘America First’ is more often associated with isolationist and nativist campaigns, intolerance of others, and even supremacist ideology. 

Yet, as Churchwell reveals, during times of economic, social, or international crisis the appeal of demagoguery would enable the twisting of the meaning of these two phrases for particular and sometimes less noble purposes.   

By Sarah Churchwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behold, America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A GUARDIAN AND A SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR
A SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER AND I-PAPER SUMMER READ

'Enormously entertaining' Sunday Times
'Fascinating' New Statesman
'An enthralling book' Guardian

'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for president in 2015. How would he revive it? By putting 'America First'.

The 'American Dream' and 'America First' are two of the most loaded phrases in America today, and also two of the most misunderstood. The American Dream began as a pledge for equality rather than as a dream of supremacy and 'making it big'. America First has not…


Book cover of The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy

Andrew L. Whitehead Author Of American Idolatry: How Christian Nationalism Betrays the Gospel and Threatens the Church

From my list on Christian Nationalism in the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by the relationship between Christianity and the United States for decades. Much of my work in the area of Christian nationalism is the result of my personal religious history and experiences, as well as my work as a social scientist. I’ve always been fascinated by how religion influences and is influenced by its social context. Christian nationalism in the US is a clear example of how influential religious ideologies can be in our social world.

Andrew's book list on Christian Nationalism in the United States

Andrew L. Whitehead Why did Andrew love this book?

While history is important for showing us how we got to where we are, social science is indispensable in helping us understand what exactly is going on around us today.

This book is a must-read for those who want to know how Christian nationalism threatens democracy. The authors conclusively demonstrate the various anti-democratic beliefs and values held by Americans who strongly embrace Christian nationalism.

January 6th wasn’t an aberration, and this book helps us understand the threat we still face.

By Philip S. Gorski, Samuel L. Perry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Flag and the Cross as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bracing examination of a force that imperils American democracy

Most Americans were shocked by the violence they witnessed at the nation's Capital on January 6th, 2021. And many were bewildered by the images displayed by the insurrectionists: a wooden cross and wooden gallows; "Jesus saves" and "Don't Tread on Me;" Christian flags and Confederate Flags; even a prayer in Jesus' name after storming the Senate chamber. Where some saw a confusing jumble, Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry saw a familiar ideology: white Christian nationalism.

In this short primer, Gorski and Perry explain what white Christian nationalism is…


Book cover of Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

Jeremy Appel Author Of Kenneyism: Jason Kenney's Pursuit of Power

From my list on understanding the political moment we’re in.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a journalist in Edmonton, Canada, who covered former premier Jason Kenney’s rise through Alberta politics, in which he tapped into the populist zeitgeist of Donald Trump and Brexit, and his eventual implosion. I have a newsletter on Substack, "The Orchard," where I cover the intersection of politics, the media, and corporate power. Through my journalism, I’ve developed a keen interest in this age of mass discontent we find ourselves in, with right-wing political and economic elites promising to blow up the entire system they embody while feckless liberal politicians seek to tinker around the edges to make the established order more palatable. 

Jeremy's book list on understanding the political moment we’re in

Jeremy Appel Why did Jeremy love this book?

Borders are far more than mere demarcations of territory, argues Canadian academic and activist Harsha Walia in a book I greatly appreciated for connecting seemingly disparate phenomena into a cohesive takedown of the modern state and its service of corporate power.

The conventional wisdom that corporate globalization eliminates national boundaries is only true, Walia explains, for an increasingly mobile global ruling class. For a global underclass of migrant labourers and asylum seekers, borders are increasingly entrenched, segregating newcomers as a source of cheap labour from the working class and fuelling the exploitation of both.

Walia describes how this segmentation undermines labour standards for all and fuels a xenophobic backlash against the depredations of global capitalism. 

By Harsha Walia,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Border and Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Border and Rule, one of North America's foremost thinkers and immigrant rights organizers delivers an unflinching examination of migration as a pillar of global governance and gendered racial class formation.

Harsha Walia disrupts easy explanations for the migrant and refugee crises, instead showing them to be the inevitable outcomes of conquest, capitalist globalization, and climate change generating mass dispossession worldwide. Border and Rule explores a number of seemingly disparate global geographies with shared logics of border rule that displace, immobilize, criminalize, exploit, and expel migrants and refugees. With her keen ability to connect the dots, Walia demonstrates how borders…


Book cover of The Ukrainians: The Story of how a People became a Nation

Shane O'Rourke Author Of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, Princess Isabel and the Ending of Servile Labour in Russia and Brazil

From my list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am teacher of Russian History in the University of York and have been in both countries many times. Russia’s war against Ukraine is something that has touched me personally and professionally in the most profound way: witnessing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been heartbreaking. Understanding why that war happened and what its consequences will be is of vital importance for anyone interested in the modern world, in justice, and the future of Europe. These books offer clear, passionate, and compelling accounts of the war, explaining the historical background, the immediate causes, the principle actors, and the Russian way of waging of the war.

Shane's book list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine

Shane O'Rourke Why did Shane love this book?

Andrew Wilson is the foremost British historian of Ukraine. This book offers the most authoritative and readable single-volume history of Ukraine available in English.

Given the astonishing lack of knowledge about Ukraine, particularly evident in so much ‘expert’ commentary on the war, Wilson’s work is required reading for anyone wanting to understand what is happening today in Ukraine. The fifth edition takes the story up to the outbreak of the war and into the summer of 2022.

The author concludes that Putin’s war to destroy Ukraine has paradoxically helped Ukraine to overcome its internal divisions and transform itself into a genuine nation-state, supported by all sections of the population. 

By Andrew Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ukrainians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As in many post-communist states, politics in Ukraine largely revolve around the issue of national identity. But in the case of a country which only became independent in 1991, the issue is particularly sensitive. Ukrainian nationalists see themselves as one of the world's oldest and most civilised peoples, 'elder brothers' indeed to the younger Russian culture. Yet Ukrainians often feel like a minority in their own country, where Russian is still the main language to be heard on the streets of the capital, Kiev. This book seeks to provide a comprehensive guide to modern Ukraine and to the versions of…


Book cover of Politics of the Sword: Dueling, Honor, and Masculinity in Modern Italy

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

This study of Italian dueling from 1860s unification to 1930s Fascism makes a convincing case that the duel was not some holdover from an aristocratic past, but a modern phenomenon that arose out of liberal politics and a free press. The book covers Italy’s long and active debate about how to curb a practice that clearly violated the law but was rarely ever punished in practice. When I first read this book I was in the middle of my own research, and Hughes was the first writer who seemed to get everything right, or at least to have discovered for Italy the same things that I was finding for South America. A great window into dueling and an even better window into liberal Italy and its politics.

By Steven C. Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Politics of the Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following its creation as a country in 1861, Italy experienced a wave of dueling that led commentators to bemoan a national “duellomania” evidenced by the sad spectacle of a duel a day. Pamphlets with titles like “Down with the Duel” and “The Shame of the Duel” all communicated the passion of those who could not believe that a people supposedly just returned to the path of progress and civilization had wholeheartedly embraced such a “barbaric” custom. Yet these critics were consistently countered by sober-minded men of rank and influence who felt that the duel was necessary for the very health…


Book cover of Thought and Change

John Hutchinson Author Of The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of the Irish Nation State

From my list on nationalism and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like an outsider and so have been preoccupied by questions of identity and belonging. In my youth, I became fascinated by the great Irish writers W. B. Yeats and James Joyce and their struggles with such questions after my family moved from Ulster to Scotland. As a young academic in Brisbane, I encountered fierce debates about Australian national identity as it shifted from a British heritage to a multicultural society. In the flux of the modern world, our identities are always under challenge and often require painful renovation.

John's book list on nationalism and identity

John Hutchinson Why did John love this book?

Gellner is, for me, one of the most original social thinkers of our time and shocks you out of your assumptions.

In this book, among much else, he offers the most incisive version of his theory of nationalism. Turning Kedourie on his head just as Marx did to Hegel, he argues that nationalist ideas are so much froth and are a product of larger structural forces. They arise in the transition from agro-literate to industrial societies.

Nationalism’s real significance is not a return to a folk past, but its creation of high cultures in the language of the people propagated in national educational systems that provide the basis of scientific modernity. So far from being a cause of war, nationalism makes a liberal international order possible.

Brilliantly written, this is an iconoclastic counter to both Smith and Kedourie.

By Ernest Gellner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thought and Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

made into a corollary