History in the Making

Document Type



Nationalism as a subject has a long and convoluted history. Many historians and scholars of other fields have tried to explore and understand the arrival and evolution of nationalism. While the subject of how it arrived is under heavy debate, the clarity of its implications remains clear. Nationalism is a long standing and strong force in the modern world. This paper attempts to capture a specific moment in time when nationalism would be beginning its powerful ascent into the world. Through one of France’s most prominent intellectuals, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, this paper analyzes three popular theories of nationalism deriving from the modernist perspective. Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes is analyzed with these three theories. Within the framework of the modernist’s perspective of nationalism, this paper attempts to analyze a period when the idea of the nation-state was growing in the minds of French intellectuals. When considering self-identity of the nation, it becomes critical to acknowledge the evolution of the “self” when paralleled against the “Other.” Edward Said’s work in “Orientalism” will be key in developing a further understanding of this self-identification. Lastly, this work will cover the strengths and weaknesses of all the varying theories when observed through Montesquieu’s work.