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Week 2

Introduction: The British problem

I. What is your national identity, and what does this mean to you?
II. What have events in 2012 indicated about national identity in Britain?
III. Historically, what processes have turned populations into nations and how might this have changed in the twentieth century?
IV. Why did the Britishness of British history come to be regarded by historians as increasingly problematic in the final decades of the twentieth century?

• For the forging of populations into nations there is a vast literature, for instance: B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (1983); E. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (1990); A. Smith, National Identity (1991).
• On ‘Britain’ as an historical problem: D. Cannadine, ‘British History as a “New Subject”: Politics, Perspectives and Prospects’, in Grant & Stringer (eds), Uniting the Kingdom (1995); D. Cannadine, ‘British History: Past Present - and Future?’, Past & Present, 119 (1988); J.G.A. Pocock, ‘British History: A Plea for a New Subject’, Journal of Modern History, 47 (1975); K. Robbins, ‘National Identity and History: Past, Present and Future’, History, 245 (1990); A. Burton, ‘Who Needs the Nation?: Interrogating “British” History’, Journal of Historical Sociology, 10 (1997), 227-48.
• For a national history which addresses the problematic nature of the nation in British history: K. Robbins, Great Britain: Identities, Institutions and the Idea of Britishness (1998); and focusing on a shorter period: R. Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000 (2002).
• You might want to consider how successfully these issues are handled in what was one of the first attempts to write the history of twentieth-century Britain as a whole: P. Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990 (1996).