The central theme of the British Studies course is national identity – it asks and explains what is Britain, historically, culturally and intellectually; what defines Britain; what is ‘Britishness’. The question of ‘Britishness’ has, today, become an important topic. It is increasingly significant academically - the subject of numerous articles, conferences and monographs - it has great significance politically, and has become a regular topic covered in newspapers and debated by politicians.There are good reasons for this: immigration and the development of a multi-cultural society has raised many questions about what constitutes a British identity; while devolution has divided the country in political terms - Scotland, once again, has its own parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland their assemblies. Understanding the protracted and difficult process by which the United Kingdom became unified helps us to understand the current debate about the future of the nation.
Proposals for a new British flag after the union of the crowns of England and Scotland (1603)
In our first meeting at the British Studies orientation session we will start to explore some of the issues, ideas and themes which will run throughout the course. In preparation for this a number of sources have been selected for you to read and consider showing a variety of different approaches to the subject of national identity. These include an academic analysis, a newspaper article, and the text of a speech delivered by fomer PM Gordon Brown on ‘Britishness’. Political and popular concern with this subject was greatly increased by the July 2005 terrorist attacks in London, which were perpetrated by British citizens. You should read these sources with this in mind.
There are three main questions we will consider in the orientation session, please give thought to these and be ready to discuss them in our first orientation session.
To provide you with some historical context we have also included an overview of Britain’s history. This is taken from a government publication aimed at people aiming to settle in the UK or acquire UK citizenship. As a result it offers a picture of what the government believes is important for a resident or citizen of the United Kingdom to know about the history and culture of his or her adopted country. By the end of the course you may or may not agree with this assessment.
We will re-consider these sources when we discuss contemporary society in the concluding British Studies seminars and lectures.
In addition, prior to arrival at Harlaxton, familiarise yourself with current events in the UK and get a feel for British perspectives on world events, particularly on those taking place in the US. Read a British newspaper online such as The Guardian, Independent, or Daily Telegraph (The Times is a subscription service), or try the BBC.
Following the signing of the 'Edinburgh agreement' on 15 October 2012, a referendum on Scottish independence will take place in 2014.
Last Updated: 07/12/2012 1:57 PM