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The Politics of Official Apologies


  • Page extent: 214 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.41 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 323.1
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: JC599.N66 N63 2008
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Civil rights--North America--History
    • Civil rights--Australia--History
    • Civil rights--New Zealand--History
    • Reconciliation--Political aspects--North America
    • Reconciliation--Political aspects--Australia

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521872317)

Replaced by 9780521693851

$72.00 (P)

This book examines the political uses of official apologies in the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Nobles explores why minority groups demand such apologies and why governments do or do not offer them. She argues that apologies can help to alter the terms and meanings of national membership. Minorities demand apologies in order to focus attention on historical injustices, the rectification of which, they argue, should guide changes in present-day government policies. When employed by political actors, apologies play an important, if under appreciated, role in bringing certain views about history and moral obligation to bear in public life.


1. Toward a membership theory of apologies; 2. History of national memberships in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States; 3. To apologize or not to apologize: national histories and official apologies; 4. Beyond sentiment? Apologies and their effects; 5. The weight of history and the value of apologies.


“This is a very interesting book on a compelling topic. Nobles makes a strong case that official apologies are under-appreciated and are worthy of sustained analytical attention. The book is well researched and written, solidly grounded in the relevant literatures, and innovative in its approach to its important subject matter. It is an accomplished and influential book that will have a substantial impact.”
Robert C. Lieberman, Columbia University

“A book with interdisciplinary appeal, Melissa Nobles’ The Politics of Official Apologies injects a sustained comparative dimension into the international discussion about the public use of history. The tension between nation-building elites and indigenous minorities who stubbornly refuse to assimilate is shown to renew the political culture of nation-states by questioning the terms of civic inclusion. At once intellectually rigorous and morally sensitive, Nobles’ book demonstrates the potency of symbolic politics surrounding official apologies in Anglophone settler societies.”
A. Dirk Moses, University of Sydney

“In our age of apology, Melissa Nobles expertly explains why apologies are given, why they are withheld, and the political importance they have. Nobles skillfully presents a theory of political membership that makes sense of why apologies arise and the political work they do. For those looking to understand the rise of public apologies, Nobles’ book is the best place to start.”
Jeff Spinner-Halev, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

"...a professionally executed and though-provoking explanation and interpretation of the role of such statements. Historians should be equally impressed and stimulated by this MIT political scientist's contribution to historiographical discussion." --J.R. Miller, University of Saskatchewan: Canadian Journal of History

"There is much to be learned from Melissa Noble's account of contemporary political apologies..." --Stephen Esquith, Michigan STate Univ: Political Theory Book Reviews

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