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The Invention of Tradition

(Canto Classics)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,088 ratings  ·  63 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: history, non-fiction
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
Ismoil Sadullozoda
This book gives a very good introduction of the concept of "Invention of Tradition" suggested by Eric Hobsbawm.

If you need to understand the concept itself it is enough to read the first chapter-Introduction. This chapter written by E.J. Hobsbawm gives the theoretical explanation of the concept and all the necessary details to comprehend the concept in the theoretical level. For more explanation and examples concerning the concept you may read the last (seventh) chapter also written by E.J. Hob
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 cl ...more
Farah Mendlesohn
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tho dated (1983) it remains a fascinating read. The chapter on Scotland and Highland tropes is attack history at its best. The chapter on Wales should be force fed to “Celtic Fantasy” writers. Most interesting though are the chapters on Africa and India: I’m sure they need rewriting but both are powerful discussions of the use of invented tradition both to develop colonialism and to resist it.

The one chapter I found annoying was the one on the British monarchy which was only interested in Engla
Bookshire Cat
The Highland Tradition of Scotland read for a class - mindblowing! I have been fed lies! :)
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, although can become
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. ...more
Josh Abdill
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Read this for class, some interesting cases, but:
I can't imagine
anyone wanting to read
this book for pleasure
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
Daniel Burton-Rose
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking and widely influential collection.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
50 years ago, 3000 years. What's the difference?
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.
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
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A unique overview about how culture is manufactured, nationalized, and manipulated for strategic benefits, with real examples in history. The author, a Marxist, goes over these ideas with fairly serious evidence and analysis. The writing also clearly shows the author to have a thoughtful understanding of the different zeitgeists that existed in these cultures before they were revised by national governments.
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.
Adam Simmers
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
this book is based on such an interesting concept but is definitely not written for a general audience. academics write a book that most people would actually enjoy reading challenge !!
Jakob Myers
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Taylor essay on Scotland and the introduction are both essential reading.
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
Dec 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to secondwomn by: dann brown
Shelves: anthology, borrowed, 2012
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. ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favoriten
A favourite of mine. Hobsbawm´s 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!
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!
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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

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