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LINDA COLLEY (historian) - BRITONS: FORGING THE NATION 1707-1837


1707: England was united with Scotland and the Parliament of Westminster became the only legislative body of both countries. From this year we start talking about Greta Britain as a geographical expression as well as a political one.

1837: Queen Victoria to the throne.
-> According to Colley, during this period fundamental transformations in the idea on the nation and Britishness developed.

Transformations before 1707:

INTERNAL:
-> PROGRESSIVE STRENGTH OF INTERNAL COHESION. After Queen Elizabeth I’s death the 2 crowns of Scotland and England were united in the same monarch, James I. The 2 countries kept their own political structures.
The CIVIL WAR in the 17th century broke out after the execution of King Charles I -> transformation of England in a Republic or Commonwealth with Oliver Cromwell. It finished in 1660 with Cromwell’s death. Then the Restoration followed with the accession of Charles II.

EXTERNAL:
-> TERRITORIAL EXPANSION connected with the colonisation of North America which began under Queen Elizabeth I.
-> EXPANSION OF COMMERCE INTERNATIONALLY: during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I many trading companies were created. They received a license to trade in various parts of the globe. The most important one was the EIC: East India Company, which was created in 1600 and which received the license to trade between England and all the territories in Asia. It became extremely powerful -> corporation.
-> Wars fought by England, especially during the period of Cromwell, in order to establish the supremacy of Britain on the seas against France and Holland, both in a military and commercial perspective.

From the 18th century England and Great Britain established themselves as world powers (and wars continued to be fought).

Linda Colley:
->> She analyses that in this period a sense of British identity began to grow. She calls it “patriotism”: idea that everybody belongs to the same nation, everybody could contribute to the creation of the nation and could benefit from it.
->> Her point is that of Anderson: the idea of britishness is primarily an idea. Britain emerged and developed as a national community, the creation of consensus that we all belong to the same structure.
->> How was this consensus created? By mobilising all the populations against the “Other” = ideological mobilisation against a common enemy. Idea of creating unity by creating an enemy and by promoting the sense of antagonism. The Others were the other great powers such as France and Spain.
->> At this point the “US vs THEM” mentality began strongly.
->> About the present: why isn’t GB so united? The enemy is no longer there so the union falls apart.
di Valentina Ligabue
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