These Englands

A conversation on national identity

It could be argued that the English always have discussed their national identity at length, if not 'with arms', and rarely at the dinner table. This book introduces the diversity of reflection on Englishness in a number of stages. 'Versions' of England are particularly apparent when reading contemporary travel writing on and about England. The relationship between the claims of continuity and the claims of change can be captured by understanding Englishness as conversation. The book brings together insights from English history, politics, constitutional affairs, literature, psephology and social psychology to provide a digest of current reflection and is divided into three complementary parts. In the first part, the nuances and subtleties of Englishness are explored. It also explores the conceptual structure and sociological texture of what such a cosmopolitan England would look like. The part discusses conversational etiquette of English national self-identification, the fear of an 'English backlash', and the non-white ethnic minority communities. The second part considers Englishness in politics and institutions. After 1997, the Labour government believed that devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland dealt with England in the appropriately English way: pragmatic adjustment without provocation. It includes discussions on Conservatism and Englishness, Gordon Brown and the negation of England, and the Britain central government. The third part reprises the themes discussed in the previous parts with a historical and literary emphasis. It includes discussions on the changing face of Englishness, and the English union in the writings of Arthur Mee and G.K. Chesterton.

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