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The Invention of Tradition

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  989 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Many of the traditions which we think of as very ancient in their origins were not in fact sanctioned by long usage over the centuries, but were invented comparative recently. This book explores examples of this process of invention - the creation of Welsh Scottish 'national culture'; the elaboration of British royal rituals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the o ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 1992 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1983)
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Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Own up, all of you who watched even an excerpt from the TV coverage of the recent wedding of the future King and Queen of UK and thought, well, yes, sure the Brits are good at this kind of thing, after all they've had hundreds of years of practice at it. Ummm, no actually. As by far the most readable of the essays in this volume claims, it was not until the very late nineteenth century that the monarchy was aggrandized through elaborate public ritual: William IV's coronation was mockingly known ...more
Harry Rutherford
Jul 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, is a selection of essays by different historians. To quote the blurb:

Many of the traditions which we think of as ancient in their origins were, in fact, invented comparatively recently. This book explores examples of this process of invention [...]

There's a great quote in the section on the British monarchy. This is Lord Robert Cecil in 1860, after watching Queen Victoria open parliament:

Some nations have a gift for ceremon/>Some
Bookshire Cat
The Highland Tradition of Scotland read for a class - mindblowing! I have been fed lies! :)
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition is a collection of essays that revolve around the notion of the invented tradition, which Hobsbawm defines in the introduction as “a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past”. He further distinguishes “tradition” and “custom” by claiming th ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it liked it
This book contains several interested historical studies that show how modern societies have "invented tradition" in order to build the nation-state and community ties. In the end, though, not very theoretically useful. The authors rarely show a methodology or approach that can be used in other work.
C.S. Malerich
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Like a lot of collections of essays, this one was hit or miss. But the opener on Scottish "traditions" was great. You think "clan tartans" and "kilts" are "traditional"? Think again!
Thomas Ray
Tells us traditional tartans and Scottish dress are recent inventions. On the other hand, very similar plaid twill woven woolen cloth, and tam o'shanters, have been found, dating from 800 BCE. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, pp. 17-21.
blue-collared mind
Dec 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
I find this to be a fascinating subject. The traditions that we follow offer clues as to which tribe we want to join or those to which we already belong; they also indicate which authorities we follow.

As pointed out in the excellent introduction, tradition is a different matter than customs. Tradition is what has become unvaried or fixed, while customs “serve the double function of motor and fly-wheel.” Customs have more to do with the delicate give and take of civil society, althoug
A handful of pieces by Hobsbawm and his fellow travelers that read like well-written academic papers should: thought-provoking, and nearly free of any kind of grim jargon. What we get is a set of incisive analyses of how English traditions were invented, and how "local" traditions were invented to expand the imperial project and the ambitions of local petty lords in Scotland, Wales, India, and British Africa. The book finishes with an essay by Hobsbawm expanded the purview to the invention of tr ...more
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book about the preservation but also the creation of tradition by nations and groups like labor groups. For example, most Scottish traditions are rather new. The book was written in 1983 so is dated on things like the British crown. Its glowing comments on public approval would have to be tempered with the scadals of Prince Charles and his divorce. And its notes that sports can be unifying. A fun read.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This volume may collect essays on specific "invented traditions", but for me, its true significance lies in illustrating how what we regard as "ancient" and venerable may in fact turn out to be a recent invention, more often than not.
In constructing our cultural identities, we construct our own past as well.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
50 years ago, 3000 years. What's the difference?
Daniel Salvador Noguera
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Anyone who wants to understand how nationalism/patriotism evolves... that is a very useful starting point.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
A mixed bunch of studies which seemed to get less and less penetrable as you go on.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The historical case-studies in this collection, though largely focusing upon cultural institutions that emerged within the British empire of the 18th and 19th centuries, nevertheless illustrates certain general principles of adaptation to social change, and functional similarities in their realization across diverse contexts. From colonial Africa and India, where indigenous customs were reified and redeployed by European powers to legitimate their own authority, and imported traditions were impl ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A hugely influential book of historiography in which Hobsbawm et al deconstruct the process by which a nation claims itself to be older than it really is, inventing its own traditions to strengthen its image of national identity and historical/political continuity. Fascinating, enlightening and important.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Mandatory reading for a matchingday at university. I did really enjoy it, especially the analytic approach to the 'why' behind an invented tradition.
Liam O'Shiel
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating group of papers on how "ancient traditions" are invented by societies that have, for one reason or another, lost touch with their true historical past. Without knowing it, of course, I have used this notion in "Eirelan," whose latter-day Celts imagine themselves closely connected to the ancient Celts but with many differences in outlook. They have "invented their traditions" over some ten centuries, and now (meaning "now" in 3953 AD) it is almost impossible to separate true histori ...more
David Winter
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A useful collection despite their age, and while very helpful for each subject the individual essays are on, still do not function as a cohesive whole. As others have mentioned, as a book, this subject would have even more value as a breakdown of the interrelations between the four nations of the British isles and their history, but focuses only on two, which makes contrasting or conclusions less possible. The imperial sections could also have been elaborated into a broader look at British estab ...more
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Olia by: my proffessor
The amazing work of a group of people, that influenced many sciences greatly. The idea of traditions as something invented, made people think at the things that surround us with new eyes. There are very many reviews both from the 80s and also of recent time, that can give some image of the book. So, no need to write so much about the content. There is only one thing i would like to say - a must-read for all people!!! especially for those fighting for the so cold "purity" of the "nation" and for ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favoriten
A favourite of mine. Hobsbawms introduction sets the base - his co-authors put in the historical examples to put colour to the theory. It is really worth reading it over and over again. I especially enjoyed the parts on Welsh and Scottish traditions, invented at some point of the 18th and 19th century.
This makes you think about the supposedly traditional "ways of behaviour" you were accustomed to!
Dec 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to secondwomn by: dann brown
Shelves: 2012, borrowed, anthology
should be subtitled to let you know upfront that it's essentially about british & british empire invention of tradition. super interesting articles and lots of great history about where various traditions - some that we think of as being quite old - really come from and when. a bit on the academic side, but not too jargony, so if you're interested in this sort of thing, i think it would be accessible to the non-specialist.
Stefaan Van ryssen
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting essays on the invention of tradition in, among others, Scotland and Wales, India and Africa. I'm a bit at a loss with Hobsbawm's own essay at the end of the collection. It lacks clarity i'm afraid.
I also wished it would look a bit further than the Commonwealth experience. Traditions in France, England properly, Germany and the USA are only glanced at sideways.
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Quite an eye-opener! Hobsbawm and Ranger successively demolish The tartan culture of Scotland, the Welsh, and the Royal weddings, coronations and Jubilees demonstrating that these are all constructed, invented traditions that have no basis in history. They are in fact mechanisms by which the ruling elites keep the masses happy. Cake and circuses. Fabulous!
Nicole Schrag
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: field-exam, london
4 stars for the central insight--“‘Traditions’ which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented"--and for the dogged dedication to teasing it out to the farthest corners of the empire(s). And this book is full of interesting historical bits, including a few about attitudes toward London's architecture in the early 20th century, so I'm a happy lady.
Everett Darling
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anglophiles, History nerds, Students of Colonialism
Shelves: 2015
Lots of factual tidbits and asides on the invention of tradition in Great Britain and it's prior colonies. However, with the countless books to be read in a lifetime, I can't warrant sitting through 50 pages on the details of the preparation for a Victorian Durbar ceremony. Hobsbawm's entries were solid though.
๖ۣۜSαᴙαh ๖ۣۜMᴄĄłłiƨʈeʀ
I thoroughly enjoyed the essays in this edition. Many of them will provide a great stepping stone in furthering my own thesis. They were clear and concise and I rarely found myself questioning if their theories were just hot air like so many other academic works I've read. Quite refreshing and a definite must read for those looking to understand the topic.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an intelligent pioneering study into the way traditions are formed and reformed in the present. More work has been done since then, but this still remains a useful starting point on the question.
Jan 01, 2009 added it
Awesome studies. Really a great theoretical tool for the study of nationalism, especially Cannadine's recollection of the history of the British monarchy. His description of "the preservation of anachronism" was very lucid and especially insightful.
Aug 09, 2011 added it
A very fine book, I expected nothing else of Hobsbawm and his colleagues. Now I have to live with the disappointment about Scottish culture since I know that the Cilt is an invention by an Englishman and not that old. ;-)
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Eric Hobsbawm, a self-confessed "unrepentant communist", was professor emeritus of economic and social history of the University of London at Birkbeck. He wrote many acclaimed historical works, including a trilogy on the nineteenth-century: The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, and The Age of Empire, and was the author of The Age of Extremes: The Short 20th Century 1914-1991 and his recent au ...more
“As one would expect of tourists, they tried to find poverty colourful,” 10 likes
“Indeed, it may be suggested that ‘traditions’ and pragmatic conventions or routines are inversely related.” 2 likes
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