The introduction presents the theme and the main goals of the book. It also sets forth its theoretical foundations. After having defined nationalism as a form of consciousness and a form of politics, it argues in favour of taking nationalist parties as units of analysis, instead of focusing on elusive ‘national aggregates’. By viewing such parties as ‘archaeologists’, that put together past and present cultural elements into a coherent narrative to make sense of reality and mobilise people, it suggests interpreting their arguments as hints of social problems arisen in the societies where they have operated. The introduction also provides a summary of the book’s main conclusions.