THE FORMATION OF A POLITICAL MENTALITY
The study of the European peoples' early histories is complex and difficult to synthesize. Part of the explanation lies in the tendency for researchers to rely upon terminology and concepts stemming from the early twentieth century.2 Research in the field of prehistory, both then and now, has served to establish and legitimise the authenticity of national or ethnic identities3 and the dominant historical-ethnographical questions have been where did these peoples come from, where did they migrate to, and what became of them? From an early stage it has been assumed that these peoples belonged to well defined, ethnically homogeneous groups, biological entities that have somehow remained intact, untouched by other kinds of historical change.
This idea of ethnic homogeneity was initially called into question through the pioneering work of Reinhard Wenskus in Stammesbildung und Verfassung, published in 1961. Since that time it has no longer been possible to take for granted the complexities of migration, or
1 I am indebted to the Carlsberg Foundation, Copenhagen, for the four-year
grant that financed my work on the Migration Period. This article was originally
completed in 1996. I am especially grateful to all the members of the 'Power and
Society'—group for inspiring discussions and provocative questions. I am special
thankful to Janet Nelson who has acted as a 'superviser' in the field of history.
Thanks to Tim Earle, Peter Heather, Frands Herschend, Richard North and Elis-
abeth Vestergaard for the use of still unpublished articles and to Peter Heather,
Janet Nelson, Frans Theuws, Walter Pohl, Herwig Wolfram and Ian Wood for
extremely useful and inspiring comments. I have to stress that whatever deficien-
cies remain are the fault of no one but myself.
Fiona Campbell and Janet Nelson translated this paper.
2 W. Pohl, Tradition, Ethnogenese und literarische Gestaltung eine Zwischenbi-
lanz. Ethnogenese und Überlieferung, eds. K. Brunner and B. Merta (Wien and München,
1994), p. 10.
3 S. Shennan, “Introduction. Archaeological approaches to cultural identity”,
Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity, ed. S. Shennan (One World Archaeology
10) (London, 1989), p. 9.