Imperial expert says ‘Britain and Britishness’ are collapsing

The idea of ​​Britain is “at the end of the road” with successive polls showing support for Scotland leaving the UK “not a normal situation”, according to a leading historian.

Stuart Ward, professor of British imperial history at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, also said it was “obvious” that UK prime ministers are rejecting another independence referendum because they “don’t trust people to put their hearts into the union”.

And he claimed that the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of Charles III would hasten the end of Britain.

The conclusions come in a new book based on 10 years of research and travel in places such as Britain, Ireland, Australia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong, which aims to place the debate about Britain’s breakup in a wider historical space. Geographic context.

Speaking ahead of the publication of Untied Kingdom: A Global History Of The End Of Britain next month, Ward told the Sunday National: “The idea of ​​being British and the disintegration of that idea over the best part of the last 100 years is a story that needs a wide lens.

“I set out not only to try to experience first-hand the historical geography of Britishness but also because the source material for this is so scattered and diverse.

“I visited public libraries, I visited manuscript collections, archives and so on to see if I could piece together a coherent story about why Britishness as a civic idea, as an idea of ​​the people, was not stuck, as a means of contributing to the ongoing debate about the fate of an independent Scotland or otherwise.”

Also Read :  Auckland Airport lifts profit guidance as travel revival fuels recovery

Ward said he concluded Britain was in its final stages because all political communities needed to have an “emotional base”.

He said that the idea of ​​Britishness emerged with the expansion of the empire, but that it slowly eroded over the decades.

“It is difficult to see how it is going to re-establish itself in the contemporary United Kingdom,” he said.

“One of the things that was repeatedly brought up in the Better Together campaign in 2014 was that it was criticized for lacking emotional content – that it went after the fire and brimstone.

“But it’s much harder to come up with these emotional arguments when the unifying emotional prism is fundamentally cracked.”

According to him, surveys documenting over 50% of people from each community who want to “be something else” cannot exist in the long term.

“I think in Britain people have started to lose the sense of how abnormal it is – every two or three months there’s another survey about whether you feel more British or English, do you feel more British or Scottish, Welsh,” he said. .

“It’s almost become a parlor game without people stopping and saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s unusual.’

“I’m from Queensland, which is a particularly parochial state – I’ve never seen a poll that asks: ‘Do you feel more Queenslander or Australian?’

“The questions will be meaningless because the concepts actually fit together.

“So we’ve lost track of how abnormal it is, for starters, and we’ve also lost track of how unsustainable it is.”

He added: “It will apply to a nation state, it will apply to a yacht club, it will apply to a knitting association – any group or club where half of its members alternately, depending on the day, say I prefer to be part of another unit.

Also Read :  The potential global risk of monkeypox importation

“It doesn’t have longevity on its side, especially as the numbers accelerate over time.”

Ward said it was the decline of the empire that marked the rise of a new political force in the form of the nationalist parties, including the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

He argued that the current constitutional impasse in Scotland was not unique, comparing it to a campaign for Australia to become a republic that had yet to succeed.

“The problem is getting coherence and agreement around where you want to be, because the moment you get a bunch of people in a room to say I think we should go beyond the UK, you’re not necessarily going to get them to a place where they’re going to agree on where it’s going to go,” he said.

“There is an internal problem of the SNP in trying to get the party and the reason to move in the same direction.”

But he added: “To those who tenant number 10 will simply say ‘now is not the time and the referendum is not happening’, that in my opinion is not a sustainable position in any way.

“I think at some point, the electoral calculus will change in the public, perhaps in favor of the SNP, where there will be more leverage of some kind.”

WARD also pointed to the succession of Tory prime ministers who refused a second independence referendum in Scotland on the basis the issue was resolved in 2014.

Also Read :  UK rail strikes spark seasonal walkouts

“Obviously the only reason they don’t do what David Cameron did is that, unlike Cameron, they don’t trust the people to put their hearts into the union,” he said.

Ward said the late Queen was the first monarch to travel widely and epitomized the idea of ​​a global Britain that was expansive and not “constrained by the laws of geography”.

“The way she was able to reassure the citizens of the United Kingdom that there is another place where we are as a people resonates around the world – I don’t think any of her successors will be able to do that,” he said.

“I think the fact that the monarchy, especially with the passing of Elizabeth, the monarchy can no longer do that, just adds another kind of notch on the stepping stones towards the dismantling of Britishness as we knew it.”

Ward said that looking at recent political events from a wider global and historical perspective of how the empire came apart showed how far Britain had come – and concluded that it was “really at the end of the road at the moment”.

He said: “All these different parts of the world, where there were strong constituencies that were very invested in the idea of ​​an overall engagement with something bigger, they all got stuck.

“So I’m looking for a reason why it should stop in Scotland, or Wales or anywhere else.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.