Roots and Beginnings: Medievalism, Nationhood, ‘Freedom’

Berger, Matthias (23 September 2016). Roots and Beginnings: Medievalism, Nationhood, ‘Freedom’ (Unpublished). In: Anglistentag 2016. Hamburg. 21.–24.09.2016.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

The Middle Ages have something of a history – of instrumentalisation by nationalisms. Nineteenth-century Europe in particular witnessed an origins craze during the process of nation-building. In the post-Shoah, post-modern West, we would expect all those medievalist master narratives to have been consigned to the dustbin of history. And yet, negotiations of national identities in medieval dress have become fashionable again, in culture – and in politics. With nationalisms currently surging in Europe, the Middle Ages are liable to be reclaimed increasingly for purposes of nation-building. Against this backdrop, this paper offers a reading of the Conservative Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan’s How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters (2013). A textual hybrid, half historical overview and half Eurosceptic right-libertarian polemic, Hannan’s book-length essay updates the metanarrative of the old ‘Whig interpretation of history’ to (re)claim a unique tradition of ‘freedom’ for what he calls the Anglosphere. Hannan looks deep into the insular past and traces the roots of Anglosphere constitutional, social and cultural exceptionalism to the Anglo-Saxons. After centuries of success, Hannan claims, the Anglosphere has now forgotten its history, and the cause of freedom stands to be lost by the ‘Europeanisation’ of the Anglosphere countries. With its overriding emphasis on origins and continuity, the book is an example of a political medievalism that sits at the nexus of memory, narrative and identity, appealing to a common (national) identity by means of a shared past that makes strong demands on the present.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Berger, Matthias


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Matthias Berger

Date Deposited:

07 Jun 2017 17:17

Last Modified:

07 Jun 2017 17:17

Uncontrolled Keywords:

medievalism; cultural memory; national identity; master narrative; Whig historiography; Magna Carta; Anglo-Saxonism; Daniel Hannan


Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback