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Is Blood Thicker Than Water?: Crises of Nationalism in the Modern World

James M. McPherson

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ISBN 10: 0375704280 / ISBN 13: 9780375704284
Published by Vintage, 1999
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Is Blood Thicker Than Water?: Crises of ...

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Good

Edition: 1st Vintage Books Ed.

About this title


From Pulitzer Prize-winner James M. McPherson comes a brilliant and passionate examination of nationalism in today's world, and its effects on the stability of the world's countries, big and small.

Since the end of the Cold War, nationalism has re-emerged as one of the most powerful forces in the modern world. Students of nationalism have analyzed two principal categories of this phenomenon. Ethnic nationalism is more familiar and easier to define; it broke up Yugoslavia into four mutually hostile ethnic nations. It split Czechoslovakia into two nations. It threatens to do the same to Canada. In contrast, civic nationalism defines national identity not by presumed descent from an ancient bloodline with its own language, culture and genetic purity but by citizenship in a national state and loyalty to its political institutions.

James M. McPherson focuses on the American Civil War and Quebec's bid for separation from Canada as case studies in the contest between these two strains of nationalism, and offers both implicit and explicit comparisons to modern counterparts.

Is Blood Thicker Than Water? will finally give us the perspective to look at this phenomenon clearly and objectively.


"This is the story of a geographically large country in North America with a federal form of government," begins James M. McPherson, and after several pages describing how two separate regions clash with each other in an unstable union, the reason for the vagueness becomes clear: he could be talking about either the United States before the Civil War or Canada today, with its French-speaking minority in Québec fitting uncomfortably into a larger fold. "There are striking parallels in the experiences of these two North American nations," writes acclaimed Civil War historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom) as he tries to apply his specific knowledge of that conflict to Canada's modern predicament.

The Civil War, he elaborates, pitted the South's sense of its own ethnic nationalism against the North's more universalist idea of civic nationalism; McPherson sees these same forces at work in modern Canada: "Many southern whites believed as strongly in their ethnic difference from Yankees as the Québecois believe in their ethnic differences from English Canadians." And while he does not believe Canada is in immediate danger of plunging into war, he warns that "deep seated tensions remain." Is Blood Thicker Than Water? is a slim but learned volume that will interest readers who believe the past has much to teach the present. --John J. Miller

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