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Sterling Identities

David Blaazer traces rival nationalisms within the British Isles from banknotes.

While most nations of the European Union accustom themselves to their new, transnational coins and banknotes, the continuing debate over whether and when Britain should follow suit demonstrates its capacity to arouse passions out of all proportion to the possible economic merits or demerits of the proposal.

The pound appears to be intimately bound up with many British people’s sense of who they are, and of their place in the world. While such feelings are not unique, the national currency appears to have a visceral importance in Britain (or, more accurately, in England) which is largely absent in most continental European countries. Indeed, were English attitudes more widespread, it is unlikely that Europe would currently be witnessing the simultaneous disappearance of eleven national currencies.

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