Forum: British Nationalism and the Nation

Keith Robbins ponders on how historians can construct a United Kingdom.

Historians are to blame for the general ignorance of the history of the United Kingdom but it must be admitted that they have problems. One of the odder aspects of this country is what to call it. Nearly seventy years ago Leo Amery listened to the third reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill and lamented that no speaker ever said anything to suggest that the United Kingdom really was a nation. If Irish nationalism was given any recognition it meant the end of United Kingdom nationalism. He argued that if only a single name could have been invented for the United Kingdom in 1800 and the Vice-Royalty abolished then Home Rule would never have been considered. Amery specialised in lost causes and his opinion need not be taken too seriously but, even so, a single name for the United Kingdom would have been useful. In certain international contexts the 'United Kingdom' or 'UK' is used as an abbreviated form of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 'but no historian admits to being a 'United Kingdom historian'.

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