A review by Joseph Hardwick Outline Britishness since is an academic history book which seeks to show how Britishness has been a more adaptable and resilient rugalmas national identity than is sometimes thought. The book is organised thematically, with each chapter focusing on a particular theme to show how Britishness has continued to be redefined in a number of different contexts. Each chapter emphasises the resilience of the forces which have operated to ensure that the inhabitants of Great Britain continue to consider themselves to be - at least in part - British. Analysis For the past two decades politicians and journalists have been predicting the collapse of the United Kingdom and with it the decline of British national identity. Ironically, these anxieties about the imminent end of Britain have stimulated historians to take a deeper interest in the history of Britishness and national identity. In general, historians have followed politicians and journalists in charting the decline of British national identity from a perceived heyday in the period between the two world wars.

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Paul Ward Introduction: 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 they had been presumed to be, national identities have 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 the 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 a consequence, in the s. After , decolonisation 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 in 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 majority 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 of , if 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 also, 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 that Britishness was a separate identity alongside other identities. 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 been a stable force, easy to describe because it is fixed.

In that sense, Britishness has always been in a process of formation. 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 revolution in Ireland between and is seen as the ideal type of 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. In the past, some historians sought to 5 explain why the British working class refused to act in the revolutionary manner expected of them.

This book will not ignore the persistent challenges to the state in the United Kingdom since , but 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 only, 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. Galicians frequently consider themselves Spanish; Germans sometimes consider themselves to be Bavarian. In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere, identities of place have frequently been multiple, combining allegiance to street, neighbourhood, locality, town, county, region, nation s and even a global empire.

The frequent 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 have 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 some are incompatible — one person cannot at the same time be 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 of , and 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. 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 were seen as modern inventions.

The three-volume collection of essays that emerged from a History Workshop conference in , edited by Raphael Samuel, had their origins in seeking to understand the widespread British patriotism associated with the Falklands War.

He doubts whether the United 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 the 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 the 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.

The argument of this book is that the period from the s to the present has been about the continuing definition 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.

This enabled the emergence of nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, but most people in those countries continued to believe they were British, looking to the Conservatives to 12 deliberately uphold the Union or to the Labour Party to provide all-British solutions to all-British problems of economic weakness.

In addition in this period, two world wars contributed powerfully to the 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 of 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 of 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 who 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 break-up 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. Their cultural influences were localised versions of a global culture — of black music, of Asian and Italian food, of drugs from Morocco and the Lebanon that were trafficked through European cities such as Amsterdam.

At the same time, the landslide election of Labour in brought to Westminster a government with a more flexible attitude to national identity than any since the pluralist Liberal governments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Britishness Since 1870

Download eBook This book of essays, which draws on the expertise of leading textile scholars in Britain and the United States, focuses on the problem of and responses to foreign competition in textiles from the late nineteenth century to the present day. A short introductory essay by the editor is followed by a survey of the debates surrounding the British cotton industry, foreign competition and competitive advantage. The other essays consider various aspects of that competition, including textile machine-making, Lancashire perceptions of the rise of Japan during the inter-war period and responses to foreign competition in the British cotton industry since , whilst others deal with the decline and rise of merchanting in UK textiles and European competition in woollen yarn and cloth from to A recurring theme in a number of the essays is Japanese competitive advantage in textiles.


Britishness since 1870



Britishness since 1870



Brief Summary of Britishness Since 1870


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