“Getting history wrong is an essential factor in the formation of a nation,” wrote Ernest Renan, basing this observation on his analysis of the nation-building experience in nineteenth-century Europe (qtd. in Eric Hobsbawm, On History. New York: New York Press, 1997: 270; for a different translation of the same sentiment, see Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation,” in Nationalism in Europe from 1815 to the Present: A Reader. Ed. Stuart Woolf. London: Routledge, 1996: 50). Many historians today tend to agree with Renan’s statement and are doing their best to “get history right” as they search for alternatives to national history. More often than not they face an uphill battle in that regard, both within and outside their profession.
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