2011 Festival of Ideas - Keynote: The Construction of National Identities

The wartime memoirs of Charles de Gaulle open with a celebrated evocation of his native land: 'a certain idea of France.' As such they express the widely held view that the nation is the most significant focus and resonant form of collective human identity', the end point to which the whole of history was ionexorably tending, initially in Europe, and eventually throughout the whole world. In the course of this lecture, I shall examine both the evidence for such a proposition and the evidence against, as well as exploring the part which historians themselves have played in the creation and the undermining of national identities. And I shall conclude by briefly exploring the alternative identities of religion, class, gender, race and civilization, which compromise and contradict the idea that the nation is the supreme form of collective identity, and speculate a little as to the future prospects of the nation in an increasingly globalised world where boundaries are more porous and less defined than ever before.

Trinity is pleased to support the 2011 Festival by assisting in bringing the Caldwell lecturers, Sir David Cannadine and Professor Linda Colley, to Australia, so fulfilling the intent of the Colin Hicks Caldwell Trust, designated for the attraction of notable international scholars in the fields of art, history, law or literature.