Philobiblon: British or English? Ask the Tudors

Monday, January 09, 2006

British or English? Ask the Tudors

Interesting review this morning on H-Albion of a book looking at the construction of nationality - Richard Helgerson's Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England.

The argument of this lively and refreshing book is that most of these
scholars have got it wrong, at least for the sixteenth and
early-seventeenth centuries. If--and it is a big if--Englishness had
achieved some sort of definition by the sixteenth century, it was
challenged in Tudor times by a wide-ranging and sustained effort, by
writers as much as or even more than statesmen, to subordinate
Englishness (along with Welshness, Scottishness, and Irishness) to a
prior and more inclusive British identity.
The reason for this becomes obvious as soon as it pointed out. With
the Henrician Reformation, England had to come to terms with what
would otherwise have been considered centuries of humiliating
tutelage to Rome. The response was--almost brutally--to attempt to
annul in the national imagination the one-thousand-year period of
"Anglo-Saxon" history. It was the Saxons, converted by Augustine,
who had put England in thralldom to Rome. The Britons of old, on the
other hand, had converted to Christianity before the coming of


Blogger michael the tubthumper said...

polls and surveys consistently show that the english feel themselves to be more british than the welsh or the scots.

1/10/2006 01:14:00 pm  

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