““We are like storm-tossed passengers in a sinking ship, groping about aimlessly, knocking up against each other, without a clear perception of the situation and without plan of action.”
–Political myths and economic realities by Francis Delaisi (1927)
With the benefit of hindsight, modern scholars can identify unbridled nationalism as a leading cause of World War II. However, it is crucial to explore whether scholars of the time foresaw the impending storm caused by nationalist movements in the first half of the 20th century and if they could have predicted the grave, mass-scale atrocities that unfolded. To shed light on the perspectives of scholars from a century ago, the IAS library has curated a Hathi Trust collection titled “Surveying the Coming Storm: Works on Nationalism Prior to WWII.” This collection aims to provide texts available at the time, enabling modern researchers to delve into the theories and conclusions formulated by scholars a hundred years ago regarding the waves of nationalist movements that swept across the globe.
Nationalism in The Interwar Period
The interwar period serves as a particularly significant juncture for the study of nationalism. Following the First World War, the collapse of several empires left a power vacuum in various parts of the world. In the process of reconstructing and defining new states, a movement emerged to establish nations based on national identities1. The underlying belief at this time was that a state founded on a national identity would best safeguard the interests and rights of the respective national group. While national identities and nation-states existed before and after this period, these nationalist movements differed from their predecessors, such as the American and French national movements, as they aimed to create a state centered around a specific nationality rather than a nation formed by people belonging to a state2. This branch of Nationalism places a great deal of importance on defining a national identity based on ethnic, linguistic, religious affiliations or other social constructs.
This method of Nationalism brought to the forefront the complex issues surrounding human rights and Nationalism. The endeavor to categorize nationalities into fixed identities inevitably marginalized certain groups, leaving them without a place or protection within the new nation-state. These marginalized groups were perceived as a constant threat to the nation-state because their mere existence challenged the Nationalist ideals upon which the new nation-states were built, often resulting in the forced expulsion of perceived minorities. Widespread population transfers became a characteristic of this system, where people faced pressure or were forcibly displaced from their homes to their purported nation-state, regardless of whether they or their ancestors had ever resided in that territory. An example of this can be seen in the case of Greeks who were forcibly uprooted from their homes in Turkey and relocated to Greece during and after World War I3. Moreover, those who lacked a formal nation-state aligned with their national identity suffered even worse fates. The targeting of Jewish communities, who did not possess a nation-state of their own, during the Second World War exemplifies the dire consequences of Nationalist violence for minorities in states dominated by Nationalist ideals4. The texts included in this collection reveal that scholars of the 1920’s-30’s were aware that the surge of Nationalism worldwide could and would lead to violence, but others focused on the promises of these movements.
As shown by the texts in this collection, not everyone was a devotee of Nationalism. Sydney Herbert wrote in his 1920 publication Nationality and Its Problems that “It needs no long argument to prove the dangers which must arise when a state … is in the hands of men with nationalist aims”. Many scholars preferred more cosmopolitan ideas, such as Internationalism, a movement that encourages the international cooperation of states and nations. While the Internationalists ultimately failed to block the Nationalist movements that took over Europe, they did make significant contributions to international politics. The League of Nations, for example, followed the Internationalist ideals of greater global connections, even though it was severely limited by Isolationist and Nationalist movements. These contrasting movements are discussed at length in this collection and provide interesting fodder for further understanding of the scholars’ viewpoints on the movements.
When examining scholarly works from the past, bibliographies serve as invaluable tools. A bibliography is a curated collection of citations centered around a specific topic. The most useful bibliographies are compiled by experts in the field, ensuring that the listed works are highly relevant to the study at hand. In the pre-internet era, bibliographies were particularly crucial for anyone seeking to delve into a particular subject since they provided a consolidated resource of books and articles on a given topic. Even in the digital age, bibliographies remain invaluable as they are carefully curated, emphasizing scholarly value over generic search engine results.
Some bibliographies also offer annotations, providing the editor’s summaries or thoughts on the listed works. These annotations further assist in assessing the value of each work. For instance, Koppel Pinson, the editor of one of the bibliographies used for this project, offers insights into foundational works, comprehensive summaries of the field, and works that are comparatively weaker. Although these annotations cannot be directly added to the Hathi Trust collection items, they can be found in the original bibliographies.
For this project, two bibliographies were instrumental in identifying contemporary texts on nationalism. Florence S. Hellman of The Library of Congress published a bibliography in 1934 titled “Nationalism: a selected list of writings since 1918, with a section on economic nationalism,” which proved to be an invaluable resource. The second bibliography used was Koppel Pinson’s 1935 work “A bibliographical introduction to nationalism, with a foreword by Carlton J.H. Hayes.” Pinson’s bibliography offered a more comprehensive range of resources, wider language coverage, and extensive annotations compared to the Library of Congress bibliography. Despite their differences, both bibliographies featured considerable overlap in terms of coverage. It is worth noting that these bibliographies are American publications, which may introduce a bias in the listed resources—a factor that researchers utilizing the collection should bear in mind. For example, neither bibliography includes the writing of Rosa Luxemburg, a revolutionary socialist and Marxist philosopher, who wrote extensively on the issue of nations and Nationalism in this time.
About this collection
The two bibliographies collectively listed over six hundred unique resources, spanning five languages and originating from various countries. Within the Hathi Trust collection, 379 titles are available, with 264 of the titles available for full text viewing. The remaining 115 titles are in the “Limited Search Only” capacity due to copyright restrictions, but researchers can still conduct text searches within these items to determine their relevance. It is important to mention that certain resources listed in the bibliographies, such as articles from periodicals or specific sections of textbooks or encyclopedias, were not included in this collection. The inability to add specific sections of a publication to the collection and the potential negative impact on text analysis projects influenced this decision. However, researchers specifically seeking articles will find a significant collection of articles in the Library of Congress bibliography.
Potential for the Collection
Apart from its research potential, this project has highlighted the need to digitize and add certain resources to Hathi Trust. Several works considered important by the bibliographies’ authors are not yet available in full text or limited search on Hathi Trust, such as Bernard Joseph’s Nationality: Its Nature and Problems and Conrad Gill’s National Power and Prosperity, a Study of the Economic Causes of Modern Warfare. Identifying historically significant books in the field of nationalism that have not yet been widely digitized is an essential step in their preservation.
Furthermore, the collection has room for expansion. Both bibliographies used as the basis for this collection are American publications from a specific time period, suggesting the existence of additional works significant to the study of nationalism that were not included due to their time and place of publication. Discovering more bibliographies to incorporate into the collection would be a valuable endeavor.
In addition to conveniently gathering historically important resources for reading, this collection holds immense potential for text analysis. The Hathi Trust Research Center Analytics provides essential tools for applying analytical algorithms to the Hathi Trust digital library. Researchers embarking on such analyses typically begin by creating a collection of texts to analyze, a step this collection already fulfills. For more information on how to use the Hathi Trust Research Center Analytics, please refer to their “Getting Started” page and “HTRC Workset Tutorials”.
The “Surveying the Coming Storm: Works on Nationalism Prior to WWII” collection offers an invaluable resource for exploring the perspectives of scholars from a century ago and understanding their theories and conclusions about the nationalist movements that shaped the world. By providing access to the texts available at the time, this collection enables researchers to delve into the complexities of nationalism in the interwar period and its far-reaching consequences. Moreover, the collection’s potential for expansion and its compatibility with text analysis tools further enhance its value as a tool for comprehensive research and examination of this significant historical topic.
- Zimmer, O. (2013). Nationalism in Europe, 1918–45. In J. Breuilly (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.
- Grant, S. (2006). A nation before nationalism: The civic and ethnic construction of America. SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Roshwald, A. (2013). Nationalism in the Middle East, 1876–1945. In J. Breuilly (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.
- Smith, A. (2006). Ethnicity and nationalism. SAGE Publications Ltd,