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The Venerable Bede and the Origins of the English ‘Nation’

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How do you define a nation? Most people would probably think of a nation as being a defined geographical area governed by a political body of some sort which acts on behalf of its citizens, who are usually bound together by some level of shared culture, ethnicity and religious beliefs or moral ideals. In today’s increasingly globalized world, our nations remain a powerful formative influence on us and almost every individual identifies themselves by their nationality in some way. 

It may surprise you to know that this modern idea of nationality did not always exist. In fact in the Middle Ages most people would not have considered themselves as belonging to any particular nation at all. So, from where did the idea originate? In the search for the origins of the English nation, some scholars have looked to the ancient historian Bede, and his famous work the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, or The History of the English Church and People. But in a time before “nations” existed, can Bede really have been the father of the English nation? The issue is more complex than it seems. – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past


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