In his two books, The Nation made Real (2013) and The Nation and Classical Music (2016), co-authored with Matthew Riley, as well as in other writings,Smith showed how artists, architects, musical composers and other cultural agents in Europe became champions of the idea of the nation from the late eighteenth century onwards and tried, through their works, to convert and draw the wider public ‘into the conceptual and emotional world of nationalism’ (Smith 2013: 2, 9). This conversion would, in turn, lead to action: the mobilization of communities, who came to think of themselves as ‘nations’ ,for the practical realization of the ideals of national ‘autonomy, unity and identity’ (Ibid : 8). For Smith, ‘[T]his is where the arts came to play a critical role.’ They enabled the wider public to ‘see the nation’ and ‘hear its call’(Ibid: 9). This they did by depicting and evoking to these wider, ‘national’ communities, the atmosphere of their homeland, its landscapes, its myths, the sound of its folksongs and its distinctive customs and history. Through the arts, the abstract concept of the nation was ‘made to seem vivid, palpable and tangible’, possessing a ‘character, history and destiny’ (Ibid: 9). The arts thus played a critical role in the building of modern national self-consciousness and through it, the modern nation-state.
- National identity