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© House of European History, Belgium

Copper engraving of Ossian’s Swan Song, by Johan Frederik Clemens - Copenhagen, 1787

History, literature and art became important political tools in national identity-building in 18th and 19th century Europe. The urge to ‘fill the gaps’ gave rise to numerous forgeries. Each ‘discovery’ traced a nation’s history as far back as possible and proclaimed its cultural superiority. Many were narrated by a national ‘Homer’ and claimed that a particular nation was the cradle of Indo-European civilisation. Even after being exposed as fakes, these stories continued to have considerable influence.