Analysis Of Linda Colley's 'Britishness'

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The growing economic and political co-operability between the nations of the British Isles, helped foster the concept of a larger, shared cultural entity that would unite the traditional cultures under one banner, known as ‘Britishness.’ The question of national and local identities has been the concern of eighteenth and nineteenth century historians such as E. A. Freeman and G. M. Trevelyan . Keith Robbins and Linda Colley both interpreted Britishness in starkly different ways, however both authors actively investigated the extent to which a national British identity superseded local cultures. Colley in her publication ‘Briton;’ presented Britishness as an over-arching identity which was 'superimposed' over a series of older attachments and loyalties, whether these were to a region, a religious denomination, or to one of the subsidiary national identities. Colley produces a compelling argument that British national identity was 'forged' in the period between the Act of Union in 1707 and the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The author’s choice of wording to describe this process is symbolic, as it adopts the cultural theorist Benedict Anderson’s thesis, which argued that nations, rather than being natural and absolute entities, were in fact culturally or intellectually 'imagined'. In particular Anderson hinted towards the rapid spread of novels, newspapers and pamphlets, which in his opinion, aided the teaching of people to think that they were part of a much wider community. Consequently, this thesis can be used to define the relationship between nations and cultures in the British Isles in the eighteenth century, whereby people can 'imagine' themselves as part of a broader community and can be influenced by groups who h... ... middle of paper ... ...ways British identity superseded that of local cultures was via the process 'blending' whereby the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland played an instrumental part in forming a new British identity. The geo-political environment of the British Isles encourages natural cooperation and understanding amongst each nation, forging shared ideas of Britishness. In addition, Paul Ward illustrates how a more flexible, inclusive and pluralist definition of Britishness that involves a diverse number of people across the religious and social divide, ensures broad support for a British identity superseding local cultures. What is evident is the fact local, regional identities have allowed and adopted British identity to supersede for greater economic, social or political aims, thus a British identity has largely superseded local identities during the eighteenth century.

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