Few would doubt the central importance of the nation in the making and unmaking of modern political communities. The long history of 'the nation' as a concept and as a name for various sorts of 'imagined community' likewise commands such acceptance. But when did the nation first become a fundamental political factor? This is a question which has been, and continues to be, far more sharply contested. A deep rift still separates 'modernist' perspectives, which view the political nation as a phenomenon limited to modern, industrialised societies, from the views of scholars concerned with the pre-industrial world who insist, often vehemently, that nations were central to pre-modern political life also. This book represents the first attempt to engage with these questions by drawing on the expertise of leading medieval, early modern and modern historians.