Greater Britain and its decline
The view from Lambeth
in The break-up of Greater Britain
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Within a British World, Anglicanism was both an agent of, and sustained by, cultures of Britishness. In turn the transformation of the Church of England into the worldwide Anglican Communion was profoundly shaped by the idea and existence of Greater Britain. After the Second World War the break-up of Greater Britain and the erosion of Britishness overlapped, and was interwoven with, the relative decline of Anglicanism in the ‘old’ Commonwealth. This chapter explores how senior British Anglicans perceived these developments. It first charts how British Anglicans visiting Australia after the Second World War were beguiled by its Britishness and convinced of the key role it should play in a Communion in which there were disintegrative forces at work. Yet they also worried about a weakening of the ‘Anglican-ness’ of the Antipodean dominions, fearful that Anglicanism might lose ground to Roman Catholicism. It was hence the implications of the decline of Greater Britain for their own Church that principally animated British Anglicans. But this focus did not preclude imperial sentiment, and senior Anglicans responded to perceived ‘threats’ through efforts to bolster the British connection as well as strengthen the Anglican Communion to maintain it in a position of worldwide influence.

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