Abstract Like many Norwegian elite, Jacob Aall (1773–1844) lived between two national identities – Norwegian and Danish. On the one hand, he was a subject of the Danish crown, educated in Denmark in the reﬁnements of European knowledge and high culture; on the other he was a loyal provincial son of Norway, engaged in building the political and economic autonomy of his homeland. This article examines the two sides of national identity in Jacob Aall’s life and work by focusing on the evolution in his understanding of the concept of the Norwegian nation. It argues that the patriotism central to Aall’s understanding of modernity and the coming-to-age of Norway contains two disparate, but equally necessary sides. The one is characterised by an abiding sentiment of national romantic cultural belonging, the other is a learned commitment to the Enlightenment utilitarian principles that gave force to the Norwegian national movement.