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Governing EnglandEnglish Identity and Institutions in a Changing United Kingdom$
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Michael Kenny, Iain McLean, and Akash Paun

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266465

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266465.001.0001

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England and Britain in Historical Perspective

England and Britain in Historical Perspective

(p.27) 2 England and Britain in Historical Perspective
Governing England

Arthur Aughey

British Academy

In 1973, the Royal Commission on the Constitution understood membership of the United Kingdom to mean representation in the Parliament at Westminster. That approach emphasised political allegiance and institutional legitimacy rather than trying to define national identity. Forty years later the historian Robert Colls proposed that if you want to understand national identity, a good place to start would be the constitution, a living tradition based on historical relationships. Accordingly, this chapter examines the link between institutions and identity from two historical perspectives. The first recognises few institutions to be English as opposed to British. The second views these institutions as English onto which have been grafted British purposes. Historically, the Union has depended on these two views of identity co-existing as a political ‘double vision’. The chapter reconsiders that historical co-existence, identifying those perspectives which also threaten that double vision.

Keywords:   national identity, English, British, Westminster, Parliament, the constitution

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