Date of Submission

Spring 2022

Academic Program

Historical Studies; Classical Studies

Project Advisor 1

Lu Kou

Project Advisor 2

David Ungvary

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Historical scholarship since the Second World War has, in general, successfully challenged the nationalist notion that ethnic identities are essential and stable markers of self-hood. One of the most influential entries from this bibliography is Benedict Anderson’s seminal study on the “horizontal” affect of the nation-state, Imagined Communities(1983), wherein the author identifies print capitalism and mass literacy as key contributors to the birth of “national communities” in the modern parlance. Less well defined in Anderson’s story of the nation, however, is the potential effect of pre-modern historical experiences on trajectories of modern state-formation. In response, this thesis explores the dialectic between state-building and identity formation in post-imperial/early medieval Latin Europe and China through a comparative lens, focusing on two key texts from the period: The History of the Franks (Decem Libri Historiarum, commonly known as the Historia Francorum) by Gregory of Tours (538–594) and The Book of Wei (Wei Shu 魏書) by Wei Shou 魏收 (506–572). In part, it addresses a chief historiographical puzzle in the pre-modern East-West analogy: How did two similarly endowed empires, Han China (202 BCE–220 CE) and the [western] Roman Empire (27 BCE–476 CE), leave behind starkly divergent legacies, namely a cyclically reunified China and a perennially divided Europe, which persist to the present day?

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