The nation is usually taken to be an expression, and ?nationalism? a defence, of culture. But we may have sanguinary national conflict (as in Northern Ireland or the former Yugoslavia) where cultural difference is small; and we may have minimal conflict (as in Switzerland or Belgium) where cultural difference is great. This essay proposes a shift, away from seeing nations as grounded in culture, to seeing them as grounded in ?identity? ? often forged by historical forces having nothing to do with culture per se. This essay rejects a cultural argument for liberal nationalism (associated with the work of Raz, Miller and Kymlicka among others) precisely because it confounds national identity with common culture. Since nations diverge despite a common culture, ?common culture? cannot explain them. Identity is more fundamental. It persists where culture changes.