‘[T]he life of nations no less than that of men is lived largely in the imagination’.
Enoch Powell (1969)
The British society is deeply divided where it concerns its national identity. The referendum of 23 June 2016 on EU membership might have been an attempt by the winning party – the Leave party – to strengthen a sense of national identity and loyalty, but it has left a trail of confusion and uncertainty in its wake and has instead highlighted the stark divisions that exist within the UK, when it comes to national loyalties and identities.
Orwell (1941) wrote that the diversity of British identity was illustrated ‘by the fact that we call our islands by no less than six different names, England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom and, in very exalted moments, Albion’.
Of all the four British nations, England is the one with weaker affiliation. Studies show that the majority of people from the other three nations see themselves as Irish, Scottish or Welsh first, and only then British, whilst in England the British prevails as the one encompassing identity of choice. This suggests that despite England’s efforts towards a unified British national identity and loyalty, it is still seen as the ‘invading country’, holding the main government and financial power, but not the hearts and minds of the invaded nations. It then begs the questions: what does it mean to be English? Is it any different from being British?
Using Benedict Anderson’s (1991) theory of ‘imagined communities’ as the theoretical baseline, I will attempt to shed some light on the issue of Englishness as a national identity, a topic which becomes increasingly important to understand in light of events from recent years which suggest that decisions made in and by England as sovereign state of Britain, do not seem to reflect the wishes of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
Firstly, I will explain the main theoretical background for this analysis, based on Benedict Anderson’s theory of national identities as a product of nations as ‘imagined communities’. I will then consider the case of England within this context. Following that, three case studies will be presented and analysed in connection with wider literature. Finally, I will present my findings and conclusions, placing them in the context of the recent events of the Scottish independence and EU membership referendums.
Identities and National Identities
[The nation is the effect of] ‘the apparatus of discourses, technologies and institutions (print capitalism, education, mass media, and so forth) which produces what is generally recognised as “the national culture”’.
This ‘national culture’ mentioned by Donald (1993) above is what unifies members of a nation – however different those members may be in terms of class, gender, or race – into one cultural identity that represents them all as belonging to the same national family, constituting one common national identity (Hall, 1996).
Many people living in Britain do not see themselves as British, even if they have been born in Britain and are officially recognised as British citizens and therefore seen as British by others (namely, the government). Questions of national and personal identity are highly complex and contentious. There are two main dimensions to the question of identity: one that is prescribed by what the government considers to be the elements that characterise an individual, for example their place of birth, physical features and professional occupation, and another that is characterised by what is important and meaningful to individuals at a personal level, for example their sporting or intellectual achievements and so on. Therefore there are inevitably various versions of identity rather than a single definitive identity for each individual.
Individuals also need to be considered within the context of their communities. A perceived collective identity can supply a comforting sense of belonging but a sense of patriotism and nationalism can also be uneasy notions in today’s post-colonial world (Grosby, 2005). For example, the German writer Jochen Bittner (2015), talking about the concept of ‘Germanness’, says: ‘[w]e (…) have been highly suspicious of collective feelings. Never again do we want to be seduced by an imagined national greatness, or even national identity.’ An even earlier account of such anti-patriotic feelings is provided by Dr Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first authoritative English dictionary, who famously defined patriotism as ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’ (Storry and Childs, 2016).
Nationality or nation-ness and nation-alism are ‘cultural artefacts of a particular kind’, created in the eighteenth century and now universal: ‘in the modern world everyone can, should, will “have” a nationality, as he or she “has” a gender’ (Anderson, 1991).
A national identity can be defined as ‘the product of state intervention in terms of politico-legal definitions of borders, citizenship and belonging. But it also exists at the level of what Michael Billig describes as ‘banal nationalism’ – the language and repetition of nationalism in the everyday’ (Byrne, 2007). This national identity provides a sense of belonging to an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson, 1991) and is ubiquitous in the individuals’ everyday lives, as the case study one below illustrates.
Having a national identity involves acts of identification, but also disidentification, for example people who decline an OBE (Order of the British Empire) honour by unwilling to be associated with notions of Empire, or the British Empire in particular.
Benedict Anderson (1991) proposes the following definition of the nation: ‘it is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion (…) Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined’. This vision suggests that a national identity is a project to define a common identity constrained geographically, politically and legally. This is reflected on how borders and citizenship are defined, for example.
Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper (2000), state that identity is a foundation for social and political action by enabling co-operation among members of a group who are seen as similar and who feel similar. This sense of belonging to a group of members who share similarities is reinforced by introducing contrasting group(s) of ‘others’, as case study three below will show. This individual or collective ‘selfhood’ forms a national identity and is the result of competing or various discourses.
The way these discourses are concretised is illustrated by James Donald’s (1993) quote above. According to this notion (also supported by Anderson, 1991) The printed media plays a critical role in defining and propagating these identities and what they should stand for, as case study two below illustrates. Further to this, these discourses are sustained by being ‘transmitted across generational lines by the process of education and acculturation and, though not cast in stone, they do tend to be highly resistant to change’ (Friedberg, 2005).
Nationality is a matter of allegiance and cultural affiliation. Opinions differ on what ‘nationality’ really entails, from where one chooses to live to which sports team one supports or which country would one fight for. Some authors argue that nationality is no longer important and far less significant than local or global identities such as those that arise from familial and community relations. Most of all, nationality is just an aspect of one’s identity and so is crossed by other kinds of identity such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, age, and occupation (Storry and Childs, 2016).
The English case
‘Britishness is a mask. Beneath it there is only one nation, England.’
S. Thomas, Welsh poet
England provides an interesting case to study because, being the conquering country responsible for the formation of Britain (here representing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), the boundaries between Englishness and Britishness are quite fuzzy. There is an ongoing confusion as to the relationship between these ‘national identities’.
In 1941, George Orwell admonished that England was ‘the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman’. This view might be supported by the fact that, according to studies, of all the UK nations, England is the one where people are more likely to regard themselves as British above any other identity, or equally British and English (NatCen Social Research, 2013). That begs the question: where does Englishness ends and Britishness begins?
A field study by Katherine Tyler in 2012 shows how notions of identity in England are still closely intertwined with memories of the Empire and England’s place in the world as an imperial force. This reinforces the ambiguities and confusions in the imagination and the narrative of England as a nation. In the words of Kumar (2003): ‘in whichever direction they look, the English find themselves called upon to reflect upon their identity and to re-think their position in the world. The protective walls that shielded them from these questions are all coming down’. In terms of British nationalism, which has been linked so closely to imperialism, it has been faced with resistance over the last centuries.
Britain have lost its former empire and had to reposition itself in terms of its relation with Europe and with the other nations within the UK. Britain is defined by well recognised geographical boundaries, a long and contentious history, and a prominent position in various international economic and political circles. Nevertheless to define British people is a much harder enterprise.
In order to understand Englishness one should take a look at the English countryside. The early nineteenth century saw the Industrial Revolution and with it a drastic re-shape of the English urban and countryside areas. Cities such as London and Birmingham grew exponentially with thousands of people moving from the countryside to these big urban centres where all the manufacturing work was based. But these big cities proved rather unsavoury, at a time of mass unemployment, financial crisis and widespread poverty; ‘they had lost touch with the innocence of their agricultural roots’ (Storry and Childs, 2016). The idyllic image of a rural society, one could argue, is still prevalent in English society as evidenced in magazines such as Country Life and the continuous appeal for TV series like Inspector Morse of Midsomer Murders.
Since the Second World War, the British Empire have gradually lost sovereignty over most of its countries. Back ‘home’, Scotland and Wales have gained more independence over their own nations with the creation of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments in 1999. Over time, perceptions of British expansion have changed from one of imperial grandeur to one to be compared to more recent (pre-World Wars) cases of European fascism.
But regardless of what view is held of the past, history provides many indications of how Britain still has a fascination with this past. Stressful modern lifestyles make people look back to calmer, more stable times through period TV dramas such as Downtown Abbey and films and books with similar thematic.
According to Storry and Childs (2016): ‘the most taught period of history in British schools is that of the Tudors (1485 – 1603). In fact the accusation if often levelled that pupils only learn about the Tudor period and the Second World War.’ This ties in with popular conceptions of British and English national identities which are very much a product of the eighteenth and particularly the nineteenth centuries.
It is clear that the English national identity is a highly contested and varied label. For example, the monarchy is one, if not the most, symbolic icon of English national identity, however throughout English history, monarchs have usually been foreign: Norman (Plantagenets), Welsh (Tudors), Scottish (Stuarts), Dutch (House of Orange), and German (Hanoverians).
Britain has a historical heritage whose imprint remains today for many people as a strong notion of what it means to be British and, more specifically, what it means to be English, and these notions are prevalent in the media: an island people ‘unconquered’ for centuries; a largely rural community, but the first industrial nation; an imperial leader; a land divided between north and south, or London and the rest of the country; and a class-ridden society, from the monarchy through the aristocracy and the middle classes to the working classes and, more recently, the ‘precariat’.
However, these notions are very much the product of a project of national identity based on the image of a powerful imperial force that no longer exists, and in symbols and social constructs from relatively recent historical events (last few centuries). This means that the mainstream conceptions of Englishness do not account for the vast pre-Tudor times history, nor for the post-imperial position of England in the world.
I have selected three case studies from peer-reviewed journals for my analysis, published between 2004 and 2013. I have found these to provide a meaningful representation of the British and English national identities debate up to this point in time, despite recent historical events, for which no solid case studies have yet been formed.
Case study one: the role of women in the articulation of national identities
‘(…) as a woman, I have no country’.
Virginia Woolf in Three Guineas(1938)
This case study is presented in the paper ‘England – whose England? Narratives of nostalgia, emptiness and evasion in imaginations of national identity’ by Bridget Byrne (2007).
Up until recently, the legal relationship between women and British citizenship has been ambiguous. In the nineteenth century, British women marrying foreign men were devoid of their British citizenship. Under Edwardian welfare legislation, British women married to a foreign men were not entitled to receive old age pension. It was not until 1948 that British women were able to keep their citizenship when marrying a foreign man and only in 1983 that they were able to pass on their British citizenship to their children, in the same circumstances (Ward, 2004).
Notwithstanding the legal and social status of women as subordinate to men, Catherine Hall (1993) defends that women, in particular middle class white women, played an essential role in the articulation of a national/imperial identity.
Byrne (2007) performed in-depth interviews with 35 white women living in two areas of South London, all of them mothers of young children. The recruitment process for participants started with posters calling for volunteers, but word of mouth proved to be a more efficient process. All selected participants self-described as just white (as opposed to mixed race or other options).
These interviews were analysed using ethnographic methodology, with a focus on creating a biography for each interviewee. Byrne was able to collect detailed qualitative data and unearth similarities, differences and resonances across cases which informed an examination of how nation-ness is imagined and lived by the women interviewed; ‘[i]t asks how constructions of Englishness related to constructions of the self and how imaginings of belonging involved imagining of otherness’ (Byrne, 2007).
Three themes have emerged from Byrne’s analysis, which I summarise below:
Imaginations of ‘deep England’ – this theme emerged from interviews with participants who held onto a ‘traditional’ view of Englishness. This view was characterised by a nostalgic craving for a patriarchal society where gentlemanly prevailed, even though the role of women was one of subservience; by well defined social classes, where individuals know the boundaries of their place in society; by the maintenance of the status quo which represented security. One participant mentioned that the books she read as a young(er) woman portrayed this same view.
Empty Englishness – this theme portrayed a similar view of Englishness as the one above, but conveying a more detached view over national identity. For the individuals in this group, being English meant very little to them and had no real impact in their lives.
Evading Englishness – this theme emerged from those interviewees who consciously detached themselves from an English national identity, the majority seeing themselves as Londoners instead, despite the fact that most moved to the capital from elsewhere in England. These individuals felt that the locally-focused identity of being a Londoner best represented their cosmopolitan lifestyles. Some also communicated some aversion to be associated with England’s past historical deeds.
There was a general feeling across all three themes that Englishness is not something that the women interviewed will or can pass on to their children, the way it was passed on to them when they were young.
The author points out that interestingly enough, all participants assessed their level of a national identity against everyday rituals and what they consumed (for example, food), as opposed to influence provided by the technologies mentioned by Donald (1993). However, the author also shows that the ‘traditional’ notions of Englishness come from and have been reinforced over the years/centuries by these same technologies.
Case study two: the role of the printed media in propagating national identities
‘[T]he convergence of capitalism and print technology (…) standardization of national calendars, clocks and language was embodied in books and the publication of daily newspapers’
Benedict Anderson (1991)
This case study is presented in the paper ‘Nation speaking unto nation? Newspapers and national identity in the devolved UK’ by Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy (2004). It comprises the ‘content analysis of 2500 sampled articles, together with qualitative comparison of different editions of the same newspaper titles and interviews with editors and journalists’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004).
The aim of this study was to show the extent and nature of references to national identity discourses in newspapers in England and Scotland. The authors considered newspapers which have more than a local or regional remit as ‘essentially national institutions which encourage their readers to see the world in general in specifically national terms, ‘re-mind’ them of their own nation in particular and help them to think in patriotic terms about it’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004).
The authors consider two problems with acknowledging a relationship between newspapers and national identity in the UK: firstly, Anderson’s assumption that the mass media are key players to the creation and dissemination of national identities has never been empirically demonstrated; and secondly, it is unclear what constitutes a ‘national identity’ in the UK. This study attempts to to provide a step in that direction by focusing on the following two dimensions (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004):
1- examine in what ways the distribution and readership of newspapers in the UK could be understood as ‘national’. How far do newspaper markets coincide with the boundaries of the British state?
2- examine how far readers in the UK are positioned as national subjects by the papers they read.
The main problem the authors faced in analysing newspaper content was to predetermine what words could be used as ‘national flags’. This was accomplished by focusing on the usage of direct national reference (for example, terms such as British or Britain); by looking at the categorisation of the news articles (‘home’ and ‘international’ sections); by concentrating on events located within Britain and analysing terms such as ‘we’ and ‘here’ in context to understand whether they referred to being British or Scottish, for example. Several researchers inter-coded the data, which made it very robust.
The authors found that the different patterns of flags found in these newspapers make the category of ‘British press’ of limited analytic or theoretical use. In Scotland, most flags pertain directly to a Scottish identity whilst in England, ‘British’ flags predominate over ‘English’ ones. The ‘home’ category was ‘predominantly and explicitly ‘Scottish’ in papers sold there, and predominantly and implicitly ‘English’ in those sold in England’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004), meaning no association between ‘Britain’ and ‘home’. This research also show that Scottish newspapers report mainly on Scottish politics but little on Welsh, Northern Irish and English. English newspapers have virtually no information on the current affairs of the other three nations.
Despite this clear division in national discourses encountered in English and Scottish newspapers, one should not assume that readers are aware of this division. The data show us a difference in discourses but it tells us nothing about how readers feel regarding their national identities. Furthermore the authors’ found that newspapers ‘deploy[ed] deixis flexibly’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004), i.e., using for example the terms ‘British’ and Scottish’ interchangeably, thus suggesting ‘that they do not necessarily see any fundamental contradiction between the existence of British and Scottish imagined communities’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004).
The authors conclude that the British ‘imagined community’ ‘need not be weakened directly by the fact, revealed by our research, that the diversity of such [national] representations may be increasing’ (Rosie, MacInnes, Petersoo, Condor and Kennedy, 2004).
Case study three: the role of the ‘other’ in defining a national identity
‘[C]ultural constructions of “otherness” are dynamic, full of contradictions and differentially available to different social categories and groupings.’
Nira Yuval-Davis (2008)
This case study is presented in the paper ‘Post-national citizenship without post-national identity? A case study of UK immigration policy and intra-EU migration’ by Katherine Tonkiss (2013). In this study, qualitative fieldwork was undertaken in Herefordshire ‘consisting of ethnographic observations and a series of open-ended, semi-structured interviews with over 40 local political elites and community members’ (Tonkiss, 2013). Participants were initially selected by a purposive non-probability technique in order to target a specific audience. Then, a similar process of ‘word of mouth’ as that employed in case study one above, was adopted.
The author adopted a ‘qualitative political theory’ approach to her research as it ‘offers theorists the opportunity to deliver additional depth of understanding that is obtained in the triangulation of theoretical presumptions with the lived experience of phenomena’ (Tonkiss, 2013).
Tonkiss (2013) defends that the vision of migration and sovereignty informing immigration policy in the UK is ‘reinforcing a form of othering in local communities that is focused on national belonging, casting the EU citizenship regime as a problematic anomaly’. The case study presented explores this issue. The aim of this research was to explore the dynamics of ‘identity in a post-national context’ (Tonkiss, 2013).
The county of Herefordshire was selected as a case study because it had maintained a low migrant population until the accession of the A8 countries to the European Union in 2008. In the period between 2002 and 2008, national insurance registrations in Herefordshire increased 12-fold, compared with double for the rest of the UK, suggesting a dramatic increase in population of previously unregistered workers.
Through her field work, the author concluded that in Herefordshire, ‘immigration created a modern multiculturalism that some see as a threat to social cohesion and security’ (Tonkiss, 2013). There was a general animosity towards migrants in the community as they were perceived as a drain to social resources (for example, housing) that locals felt should be entitled primarily to them and not equally to ‘others’. Migrants were also seen as a source of anti-social behaviour. On the other hand, temporary migrant workers were more welcomed. Locals could accommodate much better the notion that someone would live in their community just for a short period of time and then go back to their country once the job ended. They did not see temporary workers as a threat because they were less likely to compete for the same social resources.
By analysing the data from this case study with earlier discussions of UK immigration policy, the author suggested that ‘the policy and rhetoric of the UK Government reinforce nationalistic lines of difference which problematise the realisation of EU citizenship’ (Tonkiss, 2013). The findings of this case study ‘demonstrate that the ways in which local community members allocate European citizen migrants an ‘outsider’ status serves to reinforce national lines of difference rather than complement post-national citizenship rights’ (Tonkiss, 2013).
The European citizenship granted these migrants the right to be officially ‘included’ in the community and equal access to social resources, but that did not mean they were not excluded from everyday life. The persistence of a discourse of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ by the local community is at odds with a liberal notion of post-national citizenship and belonging.
Connections and contrasts between case studies
All three case studies point in the direction of a fragmented notion of what it means to be English, both within England and in other areas of Britain. Case studies one and two agree that the imagined notion of what it means to be English is rooted in concepts developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
A clear theme is found between all three studies suggesting that the approach to the British identity project has been paradoxical, often encountering resistance both with their internal nations, and externally with Europe, as well as keeping a very faint line between what it means to be British and what it means to be English.
Case studies one and two are based on Benedict Anderson’s (1991) premise that nations are an ‘imagined community’ which produces national identities. Case study two attempts to complement Anderson’s theory with empirical evidence of the role of the printed media in the propagation of those national identities.
Case studies one and three strongly suggest that there is a general confusion regarding the place of an English national identity in the lives of people in Britain and, more specifically, England itself. Data from case study two also points in the direction of this fuzziness in the notions of Britishness and Englishness, however the authors of that study do not believe the results should be interpreted as a sign of the disintegration of the British identity.
Analysis and conclusions
We are living through very interesting times that suggest that an upcoming reformulation of the English national identity is likely to take place. There are many theories and debates regarding British vs English/Scottish/Welsh/Irish identities, but not enough empirical research has been put into exploring these notions in more depth.
The three case studies above strongly suggest that the notion of an English national identity lacks sufficient meaning and can easily be discarded in favour of a broader identity (for example, British or European), or a locally-focused one (for example, Londoner). There is very little evidence to suggest that an English national identity has any weight in the everyday lives of most English-born citizens of the UK. Despite this fact, the authors of case study two do not agree that an increasing diversity in discourses of national identity in the UK means an ideological division in Britain is to take place. However, this research was performed in 2004 and since then more recent research has suggested differently.
In September 2014 a Scottish independence referendum resulted in about 55 per cent of people voting to remain in the UK. Though this left the UK intact, two important contexts to the referendum reveal that the Scots want change: the vote was much closer than anticipated and with a turnout at nearly 85 per cent, and it was followed by a general election in 2015 in which the Scottish Independence Party won 56 of the 59 Scottish constituencies.
More recently, over 60 per cent of Scots voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum of June 2016 and recent polls indicate leaving the EU would lead to a signiﬁcant increase in support for Scottish independence (Picken, 2016; Allardyce and Boothman, 2016).
The Scottish poet Robert Crawford has maintained that: ‘[i]t is hard to think today of what could be confidently called ‘British’ culture rather than English or Scottish culture (…) Scottish culture seems to have moved into a post-British phase’.
The different results to the recent EU referendum of June 2016 (nicknamed ‘Brexit’) per geographical area in the UK conveys a disparity in perceived national identities, as illustrated below:
After taking office, Prime Minister Theresa May declared herself a passionate supporter of ‘One Nation’ (Quinn, 2016). However, the referendum result that propelled her to office showed that the UK is nothing of the sort.
Research done by the Resolution Foundation suggests that the ‘left behind’ communities that have struggled most in recent decades uniformly gave the strongest support to Brexit. English East-coast towns, ex-mining communities, Midlands towns around main urban areas, dominate the list (Gibbon, 2016).
John Lanchester (2016) reflected a few weeks after the referendum: ‘[t]o be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat – a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy’. The work people have ‘doesn’t do what the old work did: it doesn’t offer a sense of identity or community of selfworth’. Their precarious existence makes them a new class, ‘the precariat’.
In a starking contrast, periphery towns (such as London and the South-East) as well as Scotland, overwhelmingly voted to remain, showing that the two sets of economic interests did not coincide.
Peter Kellner delved into these issues and found that ‘English’ voters overwhelmingly wanted their country to withdraw from the world and that international agreements were more trouble than they were worth, compared with ‘British’ voters who were much more evenly divided between internationalists and isolationists (Gibbon, 2016).
After the referendum, Fintan O’Toole wrote in The Irish Times: ‘England has not had the time, nor made the effort, to develop an inclusive, civic, progressive nationalism. It is left with a nationalism that is scarcely articulated in positive terms at all and that thus plugs into the darker energies of resentment and xenophobia’ (O’Toole, 2016).
The establishment of institutions, such as the EU, is predominantly a liberalist impulse to build and maintain cooperation between states. However, I believe it is fair to say that a constructivist thinking, focused on norms and identities, has started to become very prevalent throughout Europe in the last few years. Nevertheless, EU came to represent more than economic interests. To be European is to be cosmopolitan; it is a more liberal and inclusive identity, an alternative to a constricted nation-based identity which an increasing number of people do not identity with anymore.
England has applied to the ‘brexit’ EU referendum results a layer of financially-focused varnish with right-wing undertones. However, focusing solely on these dimensions might prove too narrow an approach towards understanding the real meaning to these results and, most of all, how the ‘leave’ campaign was carried out. It is my belief that the EU referendum encompassed an element of ‘growing pains’ of an English national identity, still deeply rooted in an outdated imperial mindset, and struggling to find its place as a modern nation within the British and European contexts in particular, and the world in general.
From my research and analysis I conclude that the English identity project was not based on solid ground. By that I mean that those elements that form what is perceived by being English (mostly propagated through the media) originate from only a narrow strip in the rich and long fabric of the history of England as a country. Furthermore, great part of those elements were taken from a time in history where the ‘brand’ England was intertwined with that of Britain as an Empire, therefore, compared to other European countries for example, England has not had a considerable history of own national identity. The Empire has been long gone and the other nations within the UK have for a very long time, maintained a self-sense of nationhood and identity (with particular emphasis on Scotland for its growing will to become independent), despite the fact that there is a general growing appetite for identification with wider (for example, the EU) and/or narrower (for example, ethnical groups) communal identities, than for national ones.
At this point it is very difficult to predict what will happen to the current British and European Union make-up. All evidence points to a very tight tie between liberal forces and those who want a return to a more isolationist state.
The next few years will determine whether the current trend is towards a more inward-looking view of nationality, or whether a sense of post-nationalism has indeed settled in the hearts and minds of the majority of the European citizens. ‘The only certainty is that we are entering a period of profound and difﬁcult change that may result in a fundamental remaking of the United Kingdom, and perhaps even its dissolution’ (Ashcroft and Bevir, 2016).
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