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Titans of the early world: celtic ideas and national thought in Britain, Ireland, and France, 1700-1900

Stewart, Ian (2017) Titans of the early world: celtic ideas and national thought in Britain, Ireland, and France, 1700-1900. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.3afpejq96g1e


This thesis provides a coherent history of Celtic ideas in the modern era. Combining intellectual and cultural history in a transnational framework, it has two main aims. The first is to chart the transformation of perceptions of the Celts from those of a sought-after European ancestor to those of a marginalised people living on the ‘fringes’ of western Europe over the longue durée of 1700-1900. The second aim is to illustrate the wider intellectual, cultural, and political ramifications of this protracted ideological shift. I examine the scholarship of antiquarians, historians, philologists, race scientists, and other intellectuals of all stripes, before investigating how Celtic cultural nationalist movements grew out of these ideas and remained anchored in them. With the racialisation of nations and the cultural shift wherein the nation became a salient political consideration in the period c.1780-c.1820, Celtic ideas were no longer mere passive descriptors of nations, their particular pasts, and their places within wider European history, but active connectors of peoples with both their history and their supposed national destiny. Developments in scholarship combined with the changing imperatives of national thought led to the emergence of an archetypal Celtic image around 1830, where ‘the Celts’ became usefully politicised by both English chauvinists and Celtic nationalists alike. This era also saw the beginnings of Pan-Celticism, where race, far from being used to castigate the Celts, became a central pillar around which members of the different Celtic nations rallied. Tracing Celtic ideological vicissitudes over this longue durée serves as a case-study for how national thought and its conceptual relatives evolved over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, following the early-modern squabbles over Celtic ancestry through to the early-twentieth century Pan-Celtic movement, the version of Celticism we have inherited more or less intact today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Ian B. Stewart
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DC France
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Jones, Heather and Hutchinson, John

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