Britishness since , by Paul Ward (London: Routledge, pp. £ pb. £). One underlying question runs through much. Britishness since by Paul Ward () A review by Joseph Hardwick Outline Britishness since is an academic. Read the full-text online edition of Britishness since ().

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Britishness since Routledge, Being British In the last thirty years or so there has been a sense of crisis about what it has meant to be British.

But not only British. Far from being a constant, as aince had been presumed to be, national identities britishnes been recognised as constructed and re-constructed.

National identities in many countries other than the United Kingdom have seemed to be more obviously contested. Disputes over borders in Europe have been frequent, and often bloody. Alsace-Lorraine was ceded by a militarily defeated France to Germany in and returned to France in after the allies had defeated Germany.

The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War produced numerous new nations, and sknce reshuffling of Europe in again changed the nature of many nations.

Poland, for example, was created, contracted, and expanded at the military and diplomatic whim of its neighbours, allies and enemies. Belgium has made great efforts to contain Flemings and Walloons within a single polity, as Spain has sought to enable autonomous government to its regions while maintaining national-political unity.

In Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, pluralism of sorts failed, with bloodshed as britoshness consequence, in the s. Afterdecolonisation in Africa and Asia saw the foundation of new nations and national identities; sometimes formed against the backdrop of war, as in Rwanda, sometimes through more peaceful transformation, as 180 South Africa.

The Americas too have experienced contests over what it means to be national. Being British is no longer seen as innate, static and permanent. Indeed, it is seen as under threat. This book examines the definition and re-definition of national identities within the United Kingdom since the s. This book, therefore, seeks to locate the current perception of crisis in its historical context. This book argues that across the period since the slnce of Britons, that is people living in the United Kingdom, have adopted cultural and political identities associated with the existence of this multi-national polity.

Many commentators believe that states that contain more than one nation are fundamentally unstable and that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland began its inevitable process of dissolution as soon as it was created by the Act of Union ofif not before with the union of England and Scotland in In this view, there was only a transient and unstable sense of a British national identity, so it has recently been argued by Christopher Harvie that there was only a brief moment of Britishness, between and They describe, but also seek to further promote, the crisis of Britishness.

Harvie and Nairn are not alone in deciding that the death of Britain is occurring or has occurred. Darcus Howe verbally and visually portrayed a crisis among white English people in his three-part television series White Tribe. And anything can happen. On the other hand, there are others who see major advantages in continuing Britishness. The New Labour government of Tony Blair has sought to defend Britishness through developing political institutions in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, but sinve, with limited powers, in London with referendums in some English regions in the future.

Many Conservatives also see a future for Britishness. That is a fact of history. She argues briitshness Britishness was a separate identity alongside other identities.

Britishness since | The English Historical Review | Oxford Academic

Human beings can and do put on several at a time. They allow for the inconsistencies, contradictions and flexibility of daily identity formation. This identification relates to the political, economic, social, cultural and personal surroundings they find themselves in at the time they choose to think about their Britishness. Hence, Britishness has never sunce a stable force, easy to describe because it is fixed.


In that sense, Britishness has always been in a process of formation.

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In this approach, the past is plundered to find examples of the expression of difference and diversity and then this is associated with the inevitability of the break of Britain. The sincd in Ireland between and is seen as the ideal type 8170 behaviour for the non- English nations of the UK. Expressions of Welsh and Scottish distinctiveness are seen as being demands for separation.

The infinite variety of discord and dissent is celebrated as a persistent challenge to the United Kingdom.

This welcome recognition of diversity is associated in many ways with the postmodernist influence on historical study. This book will not ignore the persistent challenges to the state in the United Kingdom sincebut it will argue that equal, if not more, attention needs to be given to agreement and consent in understanding the formation and resilience of Britishness over a century of rapid and radical change.

This book starts from the fundamental premise that ordinary working and middle class people played the major part in constructing their own identities. This is certainly shaped by external influences, many of which are imposed or coercive, particularly, but not britishhess, in wartime.

They also tend to be internationalist.

Arthur Aughey also stresses that people frequently have a duality of national identities. The notion of being Irish-American is well accepted.

Britishness since 1870

Galicians frequently consider themselves Spanish; Germans sometimes consider themselves britisyness be Bavarian. In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere, identities of place have frequently been multiple, combining snice to street, neighbourhood, locality, town, county, region, nation s and even a global empire.

The dince intermingling of different people from within and without the United Kingdom has also enforced a necessity for multiple identities. A quarter of people living in Wales and ten per cent of those living in Scotland in the s were not born in those nations. In addition, other identities have been held simultaneously with these identities of place. Individuals 8170 considered themselves to be mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers, socialists, liberals or conservatives, working class, middle class or aristocratic, gay or straight, with none of these categories being mutually exclusive.

The varieties are endless, and while briitishness are incompatible — one person cannot at the same time 1780 a teenager and a pensioner — not all are so. Britishness has more often than not been compatible with a huge variety of other identities, and that has been one reason for its continuing hold. And persisted it has. Of course, the dissent of millions of people needs to be taken into account across the last years. On the other hand, though, the change in Ireland can be seen as cataclysmic, caused by the experience of the First World War, the Easter Rising ofand the repression imposed by the British state.

This form of nationalism might not have embraced Britishness but it could certainly accommodate itself to remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Two sides can also be seen in Scotland in the late twentieth century. It is even possible to see ways in which Britishness has been strengthened in recent years. A further example emerges from the writing of history. There has also been a resurgence of Scottish and Welsh historiography, which equally represents a strengthening of a sense of distinctiveness within those nations, but that does not necessarily imply incompatibility.

There are some honourable exceptions. Forging the Nation was groundbreaking, locating the emergence britiahness Britishness between andas a combination britishnfss the deeds of elites and common people. In particular, she emphasises the role played by women in the forging of the nation. Keith Robbins has also contributed extensively to the historical literature about the formation of Britishness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, offering an alternative interpretation to Colley.


This has been a major achievement in the face of what was until recently a conceptual orthodoxy in which nationalism and nations brigishness seen as modern inventions. The three-volume collection of essays that emerged from a History Workshop conference inbirtishness by Raphael Samuel, had their origins in seeking to understand the widespread British patriotism associated with the Falklands War.

He doubts whether the Britushness Kingdom will last another century. He does not confront the possibility that Scottishness, for example, might also serve the purposes of historic forces, such as a globalised capitalism that needs national peculiarities to create niche markets, or that it too has been historically linked to Protestantism that faces decline.

Alternatively, and more likely, it might be suggested that for much of the twentieth century Britishness was an identity accepted, put together and lived by 11870 majority of the people within the United Kingdom. It was certainly not the only identity. It was, as Robbins has argued, a blend of other national and regional identities, and as Colley has argued, an identity that in other ways existed above these identities.

Colls views Britishness as a much weaker force than Weight. There existed a British state, he argues, but not in any real sense a British collective identity. Weight and Colls share britizhness interpretation that Britishness and the British state have been in continual crisis from at least the s, and that in the near future that crisis will not be able to resolve itself. Sincs argument of this book is that the period from the s to the present has been about the continuing bditishness of Britishness.

Britishness has continued to be made across the whole of the period. While there are certainly deep tensions, Britishness is still in formation. In the period between and this was on the basis of a widespread adherence to the monarchy and British Empire, but was also associated with the strength of the British global economy. Between and the context of the development of British national identity changed.

The Empire remained a central part of Britishness. But the economy had weakened. In addition in this period, two world wars contributed powerfully to britishjess sense that the British had common purpose. The dismantling of the British Empire between the s and s removed a major prop to Britishness. The monarchy, weakened by the end of its imperial role, did however provide a sedative to relieve some of the pain snice the loss of Empire. The legacy of empire, mass non-white immigration, challenged the racialised version of Britishness that rested on a myth of ethnic homogeneity.

The s and s saw political nationalism grow stronger in Wales and Scotland, and the re-emergence of the impact of Irish nationalism in Britain it had never gone away in Northern Ireland. This was the moment that the end of Britain began to be widely predicted. But the prophesy of change is more exciting than the prophesy of continuity even where the forces sknce continuity are far stronger. That four general elections were won by the Conservatives one under John Major, no less a Unionist than Thatcher should suggest the strength of Britishness in this period.

But it was not only Conservatives britishnss felt British. The survey was conducted before the Falklands War. Rose went further though. In this circumstance there was a substantial rise in support for devolution of power and, in some cases, for independence for Scotland and Wales.

The brjtishness of Britain, it seemed, was back on the agenda. Certainly things had changed.

Many young people, Scots, Welsh and English, saw national identity as less important than a huge variety of other identities.

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