Friday, May 27, 2005

Creation of British nationalism and why we hate the French

This article is a little long and dry, but it's an interesting article about nationalism, if you want to skim. Basically, it argues that British nationalism (as opposed to English, Scottish, or Welsh nationalism and regionalism) was only possible after the unification of 1707 because Britain became embroiled in wars with the French from the 1690s-1815. Colley makes two points, that people identified themselves as British because they were in the military and thus people, and men in particular, spent time with other people who were not from the same region or country. In short, what they had in common was Britain, not England or Kent. Also what they had in common was being Protestant, and being against the French. Before the French were the perpetual enemy, an English Anglican could see the Welsh as the Other, or the Presbyterians as the Other. The wars made those in the Isles unite against the Other of the French and the Catholics. This may explain why many Catholic Ireland, not officially incorporated until the nineteenth century, never felt part of the United Kingdom and continued to resist and define their nation as Ireland. This links Irish nationalism with Catholicism. It also explains Ameican antipathy towards the French, who we haven't been at war with since 1763 (why do we call French fries freedom fries, but not still call sauerkraut liberty cabbage? we were at war with them a whole lot more recently). America, was after all, founded by people who may at times have felt incorporated by the British national identity. Just a little summary of what I got from the article if you don't want to read it yourself.

Also, since the link I posted is through JSTOR, you may not be able to access it from an off-campus computer without logging in first. Info for the article: Linda Colley "Britishness and Otherness" Journal of British Studies


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