How was Great Britain made? And what does it mean to be British? This brilliant and seminal book examines how a more cohesive British nation was invented after 1707 and how this new national identity was nurtured through war, religion, trade, and empire. Lavishly illustrated and powerful, Britons remains a major contribution to our understanding of Britain’s past, and continues to influence ongoing controversies about this polity’s survival and future. This edition contains an extensive new preface by the author.
A sweeping survey, . . . evocatively illustrated and engagingly written.”Harriet Ritvo, New York Times Book Review
Challenging, fascinating, enormously well informed.”John Barrell, London Review of Books
Linda Colley writes with clarity and grace...Her stimulating book will be, and deserves to be influential”E. P. Thompson, Dissent
Linda Colley is Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University.
Winner of the Wolfson History Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
A superb history of how British nationalism and patriotism developed in the period before the accession of Queen Victoria; by Colley (History/Yale). Britain at the beginning of the 18th century, says Colley, "was like the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, both three [England, Scotland, and Wales] and one and altogether something of a mystery." It comprehended a "massive diversity," but, during the next century, a united kingdom was forgedunder the influence of an embattled Protestantism (the Counter-Reformation was in progress, and fear of the Stuart claimants to the throne remained vivid during this time); war (for long periods, with France); and growing trade and imperial hegemony. The loss of the American colonies was, in Colley's view, perhaps more constructive than Britain's victories, precipitating an enthusiasm for parliamentary and imperial reform and for religious liberalization in a governing elite that realized the extent of the threat it faced as a result of that loss. This elite soon recognized, moreover, that it needed more than passive obedience in order to triumph over the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Colley notes that Catholic Emancipation, parliamentary reform, and the freeing of slaves throughout the empire were attributable in remarkable measure to popular pressure. By 1832, Britain was the most democratic country in Europe, and its moral stature contributed to the relatively tranquil period that ensued during the rest of the Victorian era (though, paradoxically, Britain was outpaced in democratic commitment by many other European countries well before the end of the 19th century). Intelligent, lively, well written, bursting with ideas, and splendidlyillustrated with 70 prints and cartoons from the period.