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National Character

Posted by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 12:13 AM
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Have you ever noticed how the same historic event is often presented entirely differently in two neighbouring countries?

For example in Britain, Nelson is seen as a war hero, while in Denmark he is remembered as a war criminal.

The stories a nation tells about itself isn't so much self-delusion, as a willful projection of values upon the tapestry of history, accentuating what the writers want to be seen as important about their nation.

Do they see it as honest?  Picked upon?  A survivor?  A conqueror?  Inventive?

British writers, for example, often highlight events to reinforce the claim that the British as cynical, beset by bureaucracy and put too much importance upon orderly queueing.   Even when there is a Russian in the room. :-)

Sometimes they do this out of pride, to distinguish themselves from a particular group, sometimes to promote hope when things are bad, sometimes to re-interpret past events they are ashamed of, or justify things they want to do.


How has the story your nation tells about its national character changed over the past 200 years?  What changing circumstances do you think lead to the altered importance placed upon particular characteristics?

by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 12:13 AM
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EmmaZate
by Emma on Apr. 2, 2013 at 12:19 AM
Hmm... That's an interesting topic!

I know I that a historic event can be seen differently in different countries, but I always just assumed it was because when a country wins a war, they paint themselves in a winning light in history books, and when they lose, they rag on the other side. America has "never lost" a war, but that's because the ones that we did were no longer considered wars, just "police action"

I think that is along those same lines. The leaders knew we were losing, and changed the nature of it to keep us painted in a bright light.
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Clairwil
by New Girl on Apr. 2, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Quoting EmmaZate:


I know I that a historic event can be seen differently in different countries, but I always just assumed it was because when a country wins a war, they paint themselves in a winning light in history books, and when they lose, they rag on the other side. America has "never lost" a war, but that's because the ones that we did were no longer considered wars, just "police action"

From the WikiPedia entry on the War of 1812

A February 2012 poll found that in a list of items that could be used to define Canadians' identity, the fact that Canada successfully repelled an American invasion in the War of 1812 places second (25%), only behind the fact that Canada has universal health care (53%).

Here's one take on it from a Canadian music group:


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