Front cover image for Britons : forging the nation, 1707-1837

Britons : forging the nation, 1707-1837

Linda Colley (Author)
In this splendidly wide-ranging and compelling book, Linda Colley recounts how a new British nation was invented in the wake of the Act of Union between England and Wales and Scotland in 1707. She describes how a succession of major wars with Catholic France - culminating in the epic conflict with Napoleon - served as both a threat and a tonic, forcing the diverse peoples of this deeply Protestant culture into closer union and reminding them of what they had in common. She shows how the world-wide empire, which was the prize of so much successful warfare, gave men and women from different ethnic and social backgrounds a powerful incentive to be British. In the process, she not only demonstrates how an overarching British identity came to be superimposed on to much older regional and national identities, but she also illumines why it is that these same older identities - be it Scottishness or Welshness or Englishness or regionalism of one kind or another - have re-emerged and become far more important in the late twentieth century. An integral part of Colley's story are the aspirations, ambitions and antics of individual Britons. She supplies masterly vignettes of well-known heroes and politicians like Horatio Nelson and William Pitt the Younger, of bourgeois patriots like Thomas Coram and John Wilkes, and of artists and writers who helped forge our image of Britishness - William Hogarth, Benjamin West, David Wilkie, J.M.W. Turner, Charlotte Bronte and Walter Scott. She draws on paintings, plays, cartoons, diaries, almanacs, sermons and songs to bring vividly to life an array of men and women who have previously been left out of the historical record, from the British army officers who staged a medieval tournament in Philadelphia to defy the American 'rebels', to the women who raised money for a nude statue of the duke of Wellington, to the hundreds of thousands of working men who volunteered to fight the French in 1803. Throughout, she analyses patriotism rather than assumes its existence, and shows it to have been a remarkably diverse and often rational phenomenon. Finely written and lavishly illustrated, this highly original and timely book is a major contribution to our understanding of Britain's past and to the contemporary debate about the shape and identity of Britain in the future
Print Book, English, 1992
Yale University Press, New Haven, 1992
x, 429 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
9780300057379, 9780300059250, 0300057377, 0300059256
1. Protestants. A less than united kingdom. The struggles of God's elect. Jerusalem the golden. A polity by force of faith
2. Profits. Land, trade, war and empire. Jabobitism and the economics of loyalty. Investing in the nation. The price of it all
3. Peripheries. New landmarks. John Wilkes and Englishness. A Scottish empire? America and the revolution in British sensibilities
4. Dominance. Crisis of an order. The making of the British ruling class. The cultural reconstruction of an elite. Heroes of their own epic
5. Majesty. A royal culture confined. Why George III was different. The mechanics of royal celebration. Meanings and magic
6. Womanpower. Beating against the bonds of womanhood. War and the sexes. Making separate spheres work for women. A woman's place is in the nation
7. Manpower. A nation in arms. Who was willing to fight? The private reasons why. The politics of popular commitment
8. Victories? Catholic emancipation and division. Parliamentary reform and compromise. Slavery, freedom and consensus. A nation redefined and undefined
App. The geography of loyalty in 1745
App. Men at arms throughout Great Britain, May 1804
App. Volunteers and their chosen sphere of action in 1798