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Anthony D. Smith
Born 1933 (age 76–77)
Education B.A., Oxford University; M.Sc., D.Phil., London School of Economics
Occupation Sociologist
Employer London School of Economics
Title Professor Emeritus

Anthony D. Smith (born 1933) is Professor Emeritus of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics, and is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies. His best-known contributions to the field are the distinction between 'civic' and 'ethnic' types of nations and nationalism, and the idea that all nations have dominant 'ethnic cores'. While Smith agrees with other authors that nationalism is a modern phenomenon, he insists that nations have pre-modern origins.

Smith took his first degree in Classics and Philosophy in Oxford, and his master's degree and doctorate in Sociology at the London School of Economics.

He is a former student of the philosopher and anthropologist Ernest Gellner, but did not share his view of nationalism in the long run. He created an approach of nationalism he called ethnosymbolism, which is a synthesis of modernist and traditional views on the subject.

Smith argues that nationalism draws on the pre-existing history of the "group", an attempt to fashion this history into a sense of common identity and shared history. This is not to say that this history should be academically valid or cogent - indeed, Smith asserts, many nationalisms are based on historically flawed interpretations of past events and tend to overly mythologise small, inaccurate parts of their history.

Nationalism, according to Smith, does not require that members of a "nation" should all be alike, only that they should feel an intense bond of solidarity to the nation and other members of their nation. A sense of nationalism can inhabit and be produced from whatever dominant ideology exists in a given locale. Nationalism builds on pre-existing kinship, religious and belief systems. Smith describes the ethnic groups that form the background of modern nations as "ethnies".

When speaking of nation-states Smith notes, "We may term a state a ‘nation-state’ only if and when a single ethnic and cultural population inhabits the boundaries of a state, and the boundaries of that state are coextensive with the boundaries of that ethnic and cultural population."[1]

A nation, meanwhile, is “a named population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for its members”. An ethnie is in turn defined as ”a named population sharing a collective proper name, a presumed common ancestry, shared historical memories, one or more differencing elements of common culture, an association with a specific ‘homeland’ and a sense of solidarity for significant sectors of the population”. It should be noted that the boundaries of an ethnie can be quite recognisable even when not all of its characteristics appear at the same time. It is, in other words, not a question of a smallest common denominator.[citation needed]

Selected publications

  • (1971) Theories of Nationalism, ISBN 0-7156-0555-0; 2nd ed. (1983), ISBN 0-7156-0584-4
  • (1983) State and Nation in the Third World, ISBN 9780710801999
  • (1987) The Ethnic Origins of Nations, ISBN 0-631-15205-9
  • (1991) National Identity, ISBN 0-14-012565-5
  • (1995) Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era, ISBN 0-7456-1018-8
  • (1998) Nationalism and Modernism, ISBN 0-415-06340-X
  • (1999) Myths and Memories of the Nation, ISBN 9780198296843
  • (2000) The Nation in History, ISBN 0-7456-2580-0
  • (2003) Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity, ISBN 0-19-210017-3
  • (2004) The Antiquity of Nations, ISBN 0745627455
  • (2008) Cultural Foundations of Nations: Hierarchy, Covenant and Republic, ISBN 1405177985
  • (2009) Ethno-symbolism and Nationalism: A Cultural Approach, ISBN 9780415497985
  1. ^ Less than ten percent of existing states meet these criteria. Smith, Anthony D. Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), 86.


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