The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe - Patrick J. Geary [book:The Myth of Nations] is the third book in my "trilogy" of Late Antique histories, the first two being Frontiers of the Roman Empire and Barbarian Tides. Unlike these titles, the current book is not an academic work. Instead, Geary's audience is the general reader with an interest in history (p. 185). Beyond that, he wants to argue that modern national identities are the products of 18th and 19th century European state-building. In reality, identity (whether "constitutional" or "organic") is a concept always in flux, and, in Late Antiquity (say, AD 400-800), things were exceptionally fluid.

I don't have too much to say about the book. Geary's main point - Ethnogenesis is a process of the present and the future as much as it is of the past. No efforts of romantics, politicians, or social scientists can preserve once and for all some essential soul of a people or a nation. Nor can any effort ensure that nations, ethnic groups, and communities of today will not vanish utterly in the future. The past may have set the parameters within which one can build the future, but it cannot determine what that future must be. Peoples of Europe...are processes formed and reformed by history, not the atomic structures of history itself (p. 174) - is one I'm in agreement with, by and large.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the period but who hasn't done much reading about Late Antiquity. You can get an idea of one of the more contentious issues in current academe and a guide to further reading. Readers with a more extensive background in the period will find a nice summation but nothing new.