National Days: constructing and mobilising National Identity

31 October 2009, International

Authored by McCrone, D and McPherson, G (2009)
London, Palgrave MacMillan

The book shows how national days are best understood in the context of debates about national identity. It argues that national days are contested and manipulated, as well as subject to political, cultural and social pressure. It brings together some of the most recent research on national days and sets it in a comparative context.

Like national identity, national days involve a process of 'othering', saying who you are, as much as who you are not. If some countries (such as Scotland and Ireland) celebrate them far more strongly than their neighbour, England, why is that? Why is there no British day? Why should near-neighbours, Sweden, Norway and Finland, have such different traditions of national remembering? What if a national day and its associations are so tied into a previous political regime that they have become an embarrassment? Germany, Italy and South Africa have undergone radical political changes in the last 60 years, and with these, complex processes of forgetting and remembering. If national days have considerable political significance, whether positive or negative, they are also of major economic worth. Just as 'heritage' is not simply a matter of history, but of markets, so 'national days' have the potential to be major icons of national tourism.