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European Journal of Social Theory 6(1): 523

Copyright 2003 Sage Publications: London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi

ARTICLES

Britain, England and Europe Cultures in Contraow


Krishan Kumar
U N I V E R S I T Y O F V I RG I N I A , U S A

Abstract Europe and national identity are not necessarily in conict, as the examples of Spain, Greece, Germany and Italy in their different ways suggest. The same may be true of some of the constituent nations of the British Isles the Scots, the Irish (North and South), and the Welsh. Europe however poses a particular problem for the English, for longstanding political and cultural reasons. This article explores the different relations of the different parts of the United Kingdom to an increasingly unied Europe. It suggests that, just as there have been many Europes, so there have been many different ways of relating to it, depending on particular historical and political circumstances. Of all the peoples of the United Kingdom it is the English who have the greatest difculty in coming to terms with a future in Europe. Key words Britishness Englishness Europe national identity The United Kingdom

England is no doubt in one sense a part of Europe, but the differences between the English cultural, political and social heritage and that of any other European country are far greater than the differences within mainland Europe itself, substantial though these are. (Robert Blake, 1982: 25) I suspect that relations with the European Union have varying implications in different parts of the nation and that views in, say, Strathclyde and Hampshire would be quite distinct both among the active political classes and among the people at large. (Albert Weale, 1995: 215)

National and European Identities It is clearly mistaken to counterpose, as is often done, nationalism or national identity squarely against Europe or European identity. Different nations have

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responded to the European challenge or invitation in different ways. For Greece, Spain and Portugal, membership of the European Union has been a source of national pride. It is an indication that they have overcome a history of backwardness and authoritarianism. They have become truly modern, like other great European nations such as France, Britain or Germany. Becoming European in these cases does not contradict or undermine national identity; on the contrary it enhances it. It means that they have arrived. It is a recognition of an achieved status as a modern nation-state.1 Italy and Germany too, for somewhat different reasons, have on the whole, welcomed membership of the European Union.2 For them also joining the Union has brought solid gains in national self-estimation. In their cases the problem to be overcome is not backwardness but a troublesome and disguring past. Membership of the European Union helps them bury a recent past of fascism, totalitarianism and catastrophic defeat in war. It enables them to see themselves as reborn nations. Giving up a certain amount of sovereignty in return is not necessarily only a loss. On the contrary it can be seen positively, as a mode of penance, a recognition of past guilt, and an act of healing and reconciliation (Borri, 1994: 10; Knischewski, 1996: 134; Fulbrook, 1999: 201). In all these cases we see instances of what Alan Milward (2000) has called the European rescue of the nation-state. Europe has not so much threatened national identities as offered them the chance to reinvent themselves, in circumstances in which some kind of refashioning was urgently called for.3 Europe has been seen not primarily as the destroyer of national sovereignty but as the agency of national regeneration. For Britain, and especially for England, things look very different. Membership of the European Union is perceived against a background of industrial supremacy, world empire, and victory in the Second World War. Entry into Europe therefore carries the character of a loss, if not outright humiliation, an admission that Britain is an ordinary nation, just like other nations. The implied surrender of national sovereignty is especially threatening to the English, for whom the principle of sovereignty has been a cardinal item of their national identity. Moreover, for over two centuries Europe in various guises has functioned as the Other of this island race. It has been a negative reference point for the construction of British identities, collectively and separately (Colley, 1994). What happens when that reference point disappears? How do the different nations that make up the British Isles come to view Europe? What does Europe mean to them in the construction or reconstruction of their various national identities? How does it affect their relations to each other? These questions have taken on a new signicance in the light of a radical transformation of Britain itself.

Krishan Kumar Britain, England and Europe


The Break-Up of Britain? In 199798 Tony Blairs New Labour government, fullling an election promise, introduced a series of radical measures of devolution within Britain. With them, an entirely new relation has emerged between Britain and Europe. Britain is, in effect, no more. In Scotland there is, for the rst time since 1707, a Parliament with signicant powers; Wales has a national Assembly; Ulster has had its Assembly restored, now on a more secure power-sharing basis. Most farreaching of all, the Belfast Agreement of 1998 envisaged a Council of the Isles (the BritishIrish Council) in which all parts or nations of Britain and Ireland might nd representation, not excluding the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (Bogdanor, 2001: 1059, 20186; OLeary, 1999).4 Dreams of a federal Britain, which had waxed and waned since the 1880s, began to seem capable of fullment (Kendle, 1997). At the very least, it was clear that the entity that had been known as the united kingdom of Great Britain since 1707, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland since 1801 already, since 1922, abridged to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was not what it had been. Books, newspaper articles, and television documentaries streamed out, proclaiming in one form or another the death of Britain most likely, according to many accounts, to be heralded by a declaration of Scottish independence (see, for example, Marr, 2000; Nairn, 2000).5 The United Kingdom, in these accounts, was dissolving into ethnic nationalisms, on the one hand, and disappearing into Europe on the other (Aughey 2001: 17182): This turn of events in Britain6 is only the latest in a story of instability and change. As Hugh Trevor-Roper (1982: 100) has said:
. . . the people of these islands [the British Isles] have seldom been united, politically or culturally. Efforts were made to unite them from the 12th century onwards, but they only came under the same monarch in 1603, and the complete political union, which was at last achieved in 1801, endured only till 1922. Since then the process has been reversed.

Writing in 1982, Trevor-Roper could note the rise of Welsh and Scottish nationalism; but nothing in their endeavours came close to the achievements of 199798. As Vernon Bogdanor (2001: 1) has put it, devolution is the most radical constitutional change this country has seen since the Great Reform Act of 1832 more radical indeed than the reforms of 1832, since what it portends strikes at the heart of the central constitutional doctrine of the British state, the sovereignty or supremacy of Parliament. It is indeed remarkable to contemplate how short and chequered the British story is. There was a Britannia in Roman times, but it excluded most of Scotland as well, of course, as all of Ireland. There followed a period of extreme fragmentation the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, invasions by Danes and Vikings before the Anglo-Norman state, building on the unication accomplished by Alfred the Great in the ninth century, began its expansive career in the British Isles. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Wales and a part of Ireland were conquered, but

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Scotland held out and was never conquered by the English. Wales was formally integrated into the English state in the sixteenth century, and Ireland was ruthlessly subdued and colonized by the English in the seventeenth century. But, though sharing a monarch with England, and ruled by a Protestant minority, Ireland retained its own Parliament until 1801, and during the 1780s and 1790s came near to achieving something like Home Rule. In the meantime, a Scottish king, James VI, became, as James I (160325), king of England-with-Wales, Scotland and Ireland. But Scotland remained fully independent, with its own church and parliament, and Jamess hopes of creating a Great Britain came to naught. Only in 1707, under great pressure and with the greatest of reluctance, did the Scottish Parliament agree to make a Treaty of Union with England. This brought into being the united kingdom of Great Britain, some 500 years after Edward Is efforts at constructing the rst English empire. As Peter Scott has put it (1990: 168), Britain is an invented nation, not much older than the United States (cf. Mitchell, 1999: 157). Even that achievement was precarious. Scotland lost her Parliament, but she kept her own church, her own legal system, her educational system and her system of local government. There was a distinctive Scottish civil society, and an autonomy to Scottish development that could make many Scots feel that the union with England was provisional and conditional.7 Ireland the Ireland of the majority Catholic population was an even more unruly and unwilling partner. Forced into a parliamentary union with Britain in 1801, she showed increasing discontent throughout the nineteenth, culminating in a war of independence during and after the First World War. Britain had begun to break up as long ago as 1922, a mere two centuries after its creation. Only Wales, comprehensively conquered by the thirteenth century, showed little disposition to question the Union. But that was partly because, thanks to the early translation of the Bible into Welsh (unlike the case in Scotland and Ireland), the Welsh, alone of all the Celtic peoples in the British Isles, had been able to preserve their language and the culture that went with it. Nestled comfortably into the side of England, signicant sections of the Welsh population did well out of the English connection (not forgetting the Welsh Tudor dynasty that ruled England from 14851603). The Welsh, the original British, were also the model modern Britons. But, spurred on by the example of the Irish and Scottish nationalists, the Welsh too from the early twentieth century began to demand greater autonomy if not outright independence. With the creation of the new Welsh Assembly in 1998, the Welsh have found a political voice that, in the opinion of many observers, could take them well beyond the limited self-government currently accorded them (e.g. Osmond, 2001). This is certainly the case with the Scottish Parliament: few expect the Scots to stop at the euphoric point they have now reached in their striving for independence (McCrone, 2001: 1067; Nairn, 2000: 1534). As for the beleaguered Protestants of Northern Ireland, their fate seems to be either to nd a place in a united Ireland or to negotiate a position in the new proposed Council of the Isles. In either case, their status as a constituent part

Krishan Kumar Britain, England and Europe


of the United Kingdom seems likely to end in the new future. Northern Ireland has now been placed rmly in an all-Ireland context, even if it might re-emerge in a federal or confederal Britain (Kearney, 1997: 925; OLeary, 1999: 90; Nairn, 2001). Whether or not there is actually a break-up of Britain, the possibility and prospect throw into relief the special problem of England. It is England that has the most problems about its identity, and its place in the world. Core of the inner empire of Great Britain, and then of the grander overseas empire of what Sir Charles Dilke called Greater Britain, the English for a long time have felt neither the need nor the desire to dene a national identity. A certain notion of Englishness, thought of largely in cultural terms, sufced. For the rest there was the imperial mission, variously conceived at different times now civilization, now Protestantism, now law and parliamentarism. Such a self-conception left no room for nationalism, in the ordinary sense. Nationalism, and the investigation and cultivation of national identity that went with it, were for other peoples. The English, so they thought, had bigger things on their plate (Kumar, 2000, 2003). This creates a special problem for England in its relation to Europe. It is England, not Britain, that has the greatest difculty in coming to terms with Europe, and the greater European integration currently under way. The Irish, the Scots, even the Welsh have always had a different view of Europe from the English. It is far easier for them to contemplate a new relation with Europe than it is for the English. The potential break-up of Britain is doubly threatening to England. Not only does it lose its raison dtre, as the core nation of Britain. It is also brought face to face with the legacy of its past attitudes to Europe. The Faces of Europe It is not only Britain that is a variable entity, different things at different times. So too is Europe. Victoria de Grazia has recently restated the well-established view that there is no eternal Europe . . . Europe, like other civilizations, is discursively as well as institutionally formed in relationship to others (2001: 3).8 At a higher level of generality, Bjrn Wittrock has also stressed that the institutional complexes that make up modernity, specically European modernity, are not xed for all time but rather establish the framework for a continuous process of innovation (2000: 47; see also Therborn, 1995). What are these Europes that have existed, and what might be their legacies? There is of course the Europe of the Roman Empire, especially the Western Roman empire. This left a body of laws and a system of communication that provided the bedrock of later state formations, especially in continental Europe. It also provided a tradition of imperial rule and bureaucratic administration that was fundamental to the development of many European states (Ertman, 1998). It gave Europe a language, Latin, that became the lingua franca of educated Europe, and formed the basis of many European vernacular languages. Latin was also the language that transmitted the literary culture of the ancient world, thus

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supplying, as the classics, the body of learning that became the staple of the educated classes of Europe down to the eighteenth century and beyond. Medieval Europe another Europe both extended the Roman inheritance and at the same time lost signicant sections of the old Roman world. The Carolingian empire and its successors took romanitas to areas which had escaped Roman rule, eastwards beyond the Rhine and the Danube. At the same time the Arab advance deprived Europe of the North African littoral and much of Spain. Likewise the Anglo-Saxon and Danish invasions overwhelmed much of the Roman civilization of the old Roman province of Britannia, bringing in new ways and institutions. The North, the Scandinavian world, made its fateful appearance upon the European scene. Meanwhile, to the East, the conversion of Muscovy to Orthodoxy mean the incorporation of another strand of the Roman tradition, that expressed in the civilization of the Eastern Roman empire based on Byzantium. Europe now had a signicant and long-lasting fault line dividing West from East, western Catholicism from eastern Orthodoxy. Arabs and northern invaders did not of course just abstract from Europe, they added in immeasurable ways. The Moorish occupation of Spain brought Islam to Europe and made it an enduring part of European civilization. The northern invaders, German and Scandinavian, introduced beliefs and practices that became the basis of parliamentary institutions in many parts of Europe. They also brought a distinctive type of law, most clearly expressed in English Common Law. It is possible, too, that they are the source of the distinctive family form of north-western Europe, the nuclear family, seedbed of many of the developments that later made north-western Europe the most dynamic part of Europe. So Europe was recongured in many ways during the middle ages. Crucially, of course, its sense of itself was shaped by another Roman legacy, the religion of Christianity. But that divided Europe as much as it united it. It took another Islamic threat, that of the Ottoman Turks, to impose some kind of unity on Europe in its defence of its Christian heritage. Europe could now be seen in the Turkish mirror (Yapp, 1992; Neumann and Welsh, 1991). But what that mirror showed, at least to those perspicuous enough to see it and honest enough to admit it, was a Europe marked by innumerable signs of Islamic culture from the Arab philosophers of the Middle Ages, through Moorish architecture and urban design, down to a Balkan civilization that was a synthesis of Orthodox and Ottoman culture. The Reformation introduced another fault line in Europe, that between the Protestant north and a Catholic centre and south. There was now Western Europe and Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and Southern Europe. The Habsburg attempt to hold all the parts together failed, just as did a later attempt at European integration, that of Napoleon. With the rise of nationalism and the collapse of the far-ung multinational empires, the idea of any kind of unied Europe might have seemed hard to sustain. The historian and statesman Franois Guizot, in his celebrated History of Civilization in Europe, tried to put a brave face on the fact of European diversity and disunity:

Krishan Kumar Britain, England and Europe


Modern Europe presents us with examples of all systems, of all experiments of social organization; pure or mixed monarchies, theocracies, republics, more or less aristocratic, have thus thrived simultaneously, one beside the other; and, notwithstanding their diversity, they have all a certain resemblance, a certain family likeness, which it is impossible to mistake. ([1828] 1997: 30)

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To some this family likeness is suspicious, a forced striving after an identity that is not there. Europe is a sham, a patchwork of overlapping and conicting elements parading itself as a single civilization in the interests of certain dominant groups (Nederveen Pieterse, 1994; Shore and Black, 1994; Shore, 2000). But when Edmund Burke said that no European can be a complete exile in any part of Europe (in Davies, 1996: 8) he of all people was not praising uniformity. There can be an idea of Europe that accepts difference, even profound divisions (e.g. Gowan, 1997; Eder and Giesen, 2000). Nevertheless, even this brief sketch of European development indicates the many faces of Europe, even the possibility that there are many Europes. The twentieth century made its own contribution in the Cold War division of East and West, and the erasure of the culture of another distinctive component, Central Europe (Kundera, 1984). With the fall of communism, some part of the East-West division has abated. But the European Union has raised new walls. Entry into it has become a prized attainment for many, leading to denitions of Europeanness that in many cases have no historical warrants. There are some states, formerly bitterly fought over in the name of Europe, that now seem thrown into some sort of limbo. If there are many Europes, there are many possible relationships with Europe. The context of Victoria de Grazias remarks about there being no eternal Europe was a discussion of possible changing relationships between Europe and America. Could Americanization simply be the latest stage of European modernization, rather than some eternal other to be constantly fought against (as the French, or at least some of them, seem to regard it)? Or is the latest wave of resistance to Americanization an indication that Europe, having now matured its own brand of modernity, is now in a powerful position to contest the American variety (de Grazia, 2001: 3)? One might ask similar questions about the relation of Britain to Europe. The British state is one entity that has, since the eighteenth century, developed a set of positions in relation to continental Europe. Those positions, though they have varied in relation to the changing congurations of Europe, show some consistency. It is unclear whether there is a British nation or a British people to which these positions can be attributed, though the gap between state and nation can be exaggerated (e.g. McCrone, 2000; but cf. Colley, 1994). There are also the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, and the wider grouping of the British Isles. England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland had widely differing relations with the European mainland before the construction of the British state. They continued to do so, though to a radically diminished extent, after the creation of the British state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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In the late twentieth century, the British state appeared to be unravelling. What might be the new or revived relations between the nations of Britain and the Continent? How might these be affected by the legacies of past relationships? Cultures in Contraow For Scotland, Ireland and Wales the prospect of a return to Europe is welcome on a number of counts. Like the countries of Central and Eastern Europe seeking to escape the embrace of the Russian bear, Europe for the so-called Celtic nations of the British Isles represents a way of escaping the longstanding clutches of the imperial power in the Isles, England. For Scotland, it was the auld alliance with France that from 1295 to 1560 helped it to hold on to the independence that it had so nearly lost under Edward I, and to resist all the pressures for union with England. Even after the Scottish Reformation of 1560 and the union of the crowns of 1603, Scotland looked to France and generally to continental Europe for assistance in holding off its powerful southern neighbour. When reluctantly, but as if bowing to the inevitable, Scotland did join with England in 1707, it marked the onset of a period of cultural eforescence in which Scotlands prior relations with the Continent proved invaluable in its intellectual and professional life. The Scottish Enlightenment was the central feature of the British Enlightenment; but even more clearly it was an aspect of the European Enlightenment. David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson were known and revered all over Europe; Scottish doctors, architects and engineers were in demand everywhere on the Continent; Glasgow and Edinburgh more than London vied with Paris to be the capital of the European Enlightenment. With the growth of the British Empire, Scottish energies were diverted elsewhere, as happened with most of the peoples of the British Isles. But despite British-French rivalry, the memory of the auld alliance always remained a presence in Scottish culture, and ties with the Continent remained strong cemented by strong European interest in the Gaelic poetry of Ossian, the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and the culture and landscape of the Highlands.9 The Scottish nationalist movement which emerged in the early years of the twentieth century was fully conscious of the utility of emphasizing Scotlands European, as opposed to Anglo-Saxon, connections. The discovery of oil in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland in the 1970s gave an enormous boost to Scottish self-condence. Scots now felt they had the economic wherewithal to go it alone. But it was always envisaged that separation from England would be accompanied by Scottish entry into the European Union as an independent entity. The granting of a separate Parliament to Scotland in 1998 has made that aspiration come nearer to fullment than at any time before. The Scots already have before them the example of the republic of Ireland. Since Irelands accession to the European Union of 1973, she has thrived mightily. Ireland in the space of three or four decades has blown away a century of stagnation and backwardness.10 Like Spain or Portugal, she is one of those

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nations for whom Europe has been the salvation. Europe has answered the call of all those old Gaelic poets who longed for rescue by France, by Spain from the old enemy, England. Ironically, one of the casualties of Irelands rapid progress has been the Catholic Church, whose inuence was predominant in the era following the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. It is ironic, because it was Catholicism that was the principal tie binding Ireland to the Continent in the centuries following the Protestant Reformation. Irish scholars and theologians occupied important positions in the colleges and seminaries of Catholic Europe, and were prominent in the Vatican itself. Irish poets and writers always felt greater afnities with continental writers and thinkers than they did English ones Joyce and Beckett being perhaps the best expressions of that (Kearney, 1997: 11517). In joining the European Union, Ireland is merely formalizing a long-standing tradition. The chancellories of Brussels have replaced those of Rome; it is secular rather than Catholic Europe that is now the driving force; but Ireland has come back to its European home. Britain has felt the threat that came from Irelands European sympathies at several points in the past. During the Napoleonic wars, and again during the First World War, anti-British mainly anti-English sentiment in Ireland came close to allowing Britains enemies a base within the kingdom itself. The Union of 1801 was intended to forestall this for the future, but the force of anti-British feeling in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century meant that this remained a hope rather than an achievement. The Irish were the rst of the British peoples to break up the union. They at least the Catholic majority had never been happy within it, unlike the Scots and the Welsh; so perhaps their case cannot be taken as typical. But it was exemplary in one important sense. It showed how Europe could be used as a counter to the overwhelming power of England in the British Isles.11 If the Welsh learn this lesson, it will be more difcult for them to put it into effect. They have been more integrated into Britain, and especially its English core, than any of the other Celtic peoples. Certainly in the Middle Ages their European credentials were as strong as anyones. They were subjected to Norman inuence almost as much as the English themselves, and French and Latin were as common among their educated classes as elsewhere in Europe. Moreover, the astonishingly long-lasting fame and Europe-wide inuence of Geoffrey of Monmouths twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain ensured that the Welsh the original Britons would be marked out for as central a role in Europes future as in her past (Williams, 1991: 6273). Given Englands own European orientation in the middle ages, the thirteenthcentury English conquest of Wales did not by itself thwart this possibility of a renewed European future. What made it more difcult was the almost total triumph of the Reformation in Wales and, perhaps even more, the spectacular success of Methodism there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was Methodism, more than simply Protestantism, that gave to Welsh culture that distinct provincialism that can still be seen, especially in the rural parts. It was a

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provincialism that kept Wales aloof from many of the main developments on the Continent that were eagerly absorbed by the Scots and Irish. If the Welsh sought a larger theatre for their energies it was not so much to the Continent as to England itself, and the new world in the west, that they looked.12 That epoch now seems to be coming to a close. The Welsh, with their new Assembly, are now exing their political muscles. They are as aware as the Scots and the Irish of the new opportunity structure that is held out by the European Union. A painful lesson was taught them by the Thatcher years of privatization. This forced many Welsh to turn away from their traditional attachment to a socialist economy, and look to inward investment from abroad. They now increasingly see their future as a region within Europe, and have been developing close ties with regions, such as Baden-Wrttemberg and Lombardy, which have similar economic cultures (Osmond, 2001: 116). This new European orientation also explains why the Welsh, who rejected devolution in 1979, were receptive to it in 1997. Decentralization was a decisive rst step towards separate integration into Europe. The re-education process seems to be continuing. A poll of January 2002 showed Wales to be the rst United Kingdom nation to support the single European currency, the euro (Guardian, 15 January 2002). So far the Welsh seem content to remain within the United Kingdom; and it is true that they have nothing like Scottish oil with which to bargain. But the secret is now out. Europe is a counter to Britain. A strategy of opting-out and joining-in is available to any determined political elite that can drum up enough popular support. At the very least the existence of the European Union allows the constituent parts of the United Kingdom to consider renegotiating the terms of the union. English Exceptionalism It is England, the architect and lynchpin of the British system, that is most threatened by this development. Moreover, it is England, in comparison with its British neighbours, which can least rely on the compensating recourse of Europe. The reasons for this are complex, and to some extent paradoxical. England the territory that became England has been an integral part of Europe since the invasions of the Celts in the fth century BC, and remained so until at least the end of the fteenth century. The Roman conquest continued the pattern of pan-European settlement and institutions begun by the Celts, as did, though with a more restricted focus, the Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Scandinavian invasions. With the Norman conquest and the subsequent Norman and Angevin dynasties, England now so-called was placed formally within the web of European possessions and ambitions that stretched from Ireland and Scotland to Italy, Sicily and the Holy Lands beyond. England was thoroughly Europeanized, on a wider scale than ever before. English culture was Anglo-Norman; French was the language of the court and the upper classes, just as Latin was the language of the English church and of state administration; Italians such as Lanfranc and

Krishan Kumar Britain, England and Europe


Anselm became Archbishops of Canterbury; Norman architecture covered the land; English philosophers and poets from Duns Scotus to William Chaucer were part of European culture, and had European connections and reputations (Clanchy, 1998; Black, 1994: chs 13; Davies, 1999: chs 46). It was the Reformation that, by most accounts, began Englands withdrawal from the European mainland (though the loss of practically all of Englands French possessions in the fteenth century might be said to have contributed to this move). England found itself confronted by two Catholic powers, rst Spain, then France, that embodied different principles of culture and politics. We should remember though that Protestantism was as international as Catholicism, so that the mere fact of Englands turning Protestant is not sufcient to explain a growing abandonment of continental ambitions and adventures.13 But the experience of encountering the formidable powers of Spain and France, taken with the opportunities that had opened up westward with the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World, seem to have convinced English elites that the English future lay not in Europe but overseas. It is from the mid-seventeenth century that we begin to get the drawing of those invidious distinctions between England and the Continent that for centuries became the staple of politicians rhetoric, political and legal commentary, historiography, childrens classics and popular culture. England stood for peace, Protestantism and freedom, continental Europe (with some honourable exceptions) for militarism, Catholicism and despotism (Armitage, 2000: 14445). The freedom gained by the English people, deriving from a peculiar history that predated the Norman conquest, had unleashed a wave of cultural and commercial energy that was taking England to the summit of world power. English prosperity was widely and democratically spread; the majority of the French and Spanish were sunk in apathy and poverty, while their rulers revelled in luxury. English Common Law was contrasted with continental Roman Law, to the detriment of the latter, English individualism with continental corporatism and bureaucratic control. Continental monarchs held their people in thrall by maintaining large standing armies; England after the seventeenth-century Civil War dispensed with standing armies and relied instead on the strength of her navy to defend her shores, her prosperity and her freedom. These contrasts, some of them breathtaking in their one-sidedness, came to be embodied in a number of enduring myths and interpretations that, taught at an early age in families, churches and schools, provide the English with an account of themselves as exceptional in a number of ways, but especially as compared with continental Europe. One of these was the myth of the Norman Yoke that, as Christopher Hill (1986) has shown, served for centuries to provide ordinary English people with a sense of their superiority as descended from freedom-loving Anglo-Saxons (now conveniently counterposed to Latin Europe). Another, more scholarly but with plenty of popularizers, was what came to be known as the Whig interpretation of history (Buttereld, 1931, 1945; Burrow, 1983; Haseler, 1996; Condren, 1999).14 Applied to England, it produced a history of uninterrupted parliamentary government, culminating in

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the rise of the House of Commons and the sealing of parliamentary supremacy in the revolutions of 1642 and 1688. This fortunate history was contrasted with the suppression of parliaments on the Continent and the growth of centralized bureaucracies subject only to the will of the monarch. Continental societies, such as that of the French, might try to break out of this pattern and seize freedom through revolution. But the fate of the French Revolution, its culmination in the Terror and military dictatorship, only showed how imprisoned continental societies were by their heritage of centralized despotism. English observers of the nineteenth century watched with concern but also some complacency the failure of parliamentary institutions to take rm root in countries such as France, Italy and Germany not to mention the countries further east. Britains acquisition of a world empire, and worldwide responsibilities and interests greater by far than that of any other European country was bound to intensify further the sense of a difference from Europe. The English, as the creators and guiding spirits of an empire in which the Scots, Welsh and Irish also shared, saw themselves increasingly in the perspective of Rome, the Rome that had overseen the spread of order and civilization to the far corners of the ancient world (Brunt, 1965). Their rivals were those, such as the Russians, who also had non-European interests and who also saw themselves as the carriers of an imperial mission. Moreover there was the growing world power of the United States, with which Britain had many ties and which many regarded as a member of a far-ung English-speaking family. This too offered a pole of attraction as an alternative to Europe (Schwarz, 2001: 160). When, after the devastation of the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill proposed the construction of a United States of Europe, he was clear that Britain would not be part of it. We are, he said, with Europe, not of it. We are linked, but not comprised (in Black, 1994: 236). World order would be maintained by the great powers the United States, the Soviet Union, a united Europe, and an independent British Empire and Commonwealth (Sherman, 1999: 93). Britains empire has gone, and with it Britains world role. This confronted Britain with one challenge, as Dean Acheson memorably noted, and the English, as the imperial people, felt it more acutely than the other British peoples. But now the English face what is in some ways a more serious challenge, the prospect of the loss of that inner empire, Great Britain, which had sustained them and given them a sense of purpose for nearly three centuries. Europe offers itself as an alternative, but for the English absorption in a united Europe is a far more difcult thing to contemplate than it is for Scots, Welsh and Irish. England remains pivoted uneasily between Europe and America, as British policies from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair clearly show. Nor is the ambivalence about Europe restricted to Eurosceptics on the Right of the political spectrum (Krieger, 1999: 136; Marr, 2000: 173, 190). Within the English Left there is a strong tradition of Little Englandism that sees the European Union as a capitalist club or cartel, and fears that English membership will it make it far more difcult to bring about the radical social changes that the Left has historically stood for (Nairn, 1973; Sherman, 1999: 98; Aughey, 2001: 173). Ironically, and

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for very different reasons, Enoch Powell and Tony Benn join hands in defence of the sovereignty of Parliament (Mitchell, 1999: 159) a sovereignty now threatened both by the existence of competing assemblies in Britain and by the increasing importance of European law made by the institutions of the European Union. Englands isolationism from Europe has returned to haunt it.15 For Macaulay, this insularity, this idea of England as an island race, was something to be celebrated, as pointing to the source of Englands superiority over the Continent. Our fathers became emphatically islanders, islanders not merely in geographical position, but in their politics, their feelings, and their manners (in Weale, 1995: 220). From Shakespeare to the present, English writers have persisted in calling England an island, despite the evident geographical inaccuracy and to the annoyance of the other inhabitants of the island of Britain. But the slippage is revealing. The English, at least in modern times, did develop an insular mentality, though we have to remember that this was accompanied by a sense of a wider global purpose. But in relation to Europe at least, that insularity was highly consequential. It meant that the English sought to avoid all entanglements in Europe. All that mattered was that no power should be allowed to dominate Europe, as that would threaten Englands security. For more than a century the principle of the balance of power governed Britains European policy the obverse of a policy of non-involvement. Reluctantly England was drawn into European affairs, most fatefully in the First and Second World Wars. But the instinct was always to turn its back on Europe. History is not all-determining, otherwise we would never have escaped the Stone Age. The English at least the ordinary English have shown in recent years a willingness to embrace continental culture in many forms, from lms to food and sex. Continental travel has become standard for all classes. London is now the European capital, the mecca for the young and ambitious of all European nations. English society is now more multicultural than ever it was before. And even if it is largely due to American inuence, the fact that English has become so widely spoken on the Continent certainly should be an aid to English integration in Europe (Seidentop, 2001: 133). And yet we need to remember that many of the elements that make up English multiculturalism the black and Asian communities that now account for about 7 percent of the English population do not have European roots and are in many respects deeply concerned about Englands turn to Europe. Not only do they feel that they do not, and cannot, possess a European identity; they fear that they may lose many of the gains made in English race relations legislation in the last few decades, since the race relations legislation of the European Union is based on a different model.16 Englands imperial heritage here introduces a discordant element one of the many examples of the empire striking back. History strikes back in another way, one even more difcult for the English to deal with. Parliamentary sovereignty is so enshrined within English constitutional practice that many English commentators cannot imagine an English nation or an English national identity without it. Here the difference with the Scots and other British nations is telling. As Smout (1994) points out, the Scots

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do not fear giving up their sovereignty to Europe because they have learned that there can be national identity without state sovereignty. Union does not mean that national identity disappears. England, however, has been riven with fears that if Britain surrenders any of her sovereignty to a federal Europe, her identity will go as well; her history has given her no experience of the loss of sovereignty, or of the possibility of survival of identity (Smout, 1994: 112; see also Marquand, 1993; Schwarz, 2001: 1634; Aughey, 2001: 174). For the English, Europe equals no national sovereignty, hence no national identity. Will England overcome its long-standing Euroscepticism? If polls are anything to go by, the English are almost evenly divided, with the majority accepting, without any great enthusiasm, further integration into Europe (e.g. Davies, 1999: 10356; New York Times, 9 December 2001). No doubt the debate over Britains adoption of the euro will crystallize opinion further. But we should not be surprised to nd several echoes, if not the actual use, of the argument of this island race.

Notes
This is a revised version of a paper rst given at the 13th International Conference of Europeanists, Europe in the New Millennium, Chicago, 1416 March, 2002. For valuable comments I should like to thank the presenters and participants in my panel, especially Gerard Delanty, Juan Dez Medrano and Gianfranco Poggi. 1 As Pablo Juregui has shown for Spain, the idea of Europe as the source of national regeneration was already popular at the turn of the twentieth century, following Spains disastrous defeat in the SpanishAmerican War of 1898. Its best known exponent was Jos Ortega y Gasset, who declared in a public lecture of 1910: To feel the ills of Spain is to desire to be European . . . Regeneration is inseparable from Europeanization . . . Regeneration is the desire; Europeanization is the means to satisfy it. It was clearly seen from the beginning that Spain was the problem and Europe the solution (in Juregui, 2002: 20). 2 I speak throughout this paper of Germany, Italy, England, etc., as if they are unied entities, speaking with one voice. Clearly that is not the case. The populations of most European societies, at both the elite and mass levels, are very divided in their attitudes to Europe, reecting generally very different interests. Nevertheless, for the kind of argument I am making I think this caution essential in other kinds of analyses is less important. The argument works at a level of generality sufciently high to encompass a considerable variety of view-points. What we may be considering in most cases are ofcial ideologies, national self-conceptions developed through the medium of public institutions, such as schools and the mass media, over sometimes long periods of time; but by that very token they have become the forms of understanding of quite large sections of the population, at all levels of society. The problem of interests and differential perception of course applies not just to attitudes to Europe but in all questions of national identity and what that is presumed to mean. Nevertheless that does not, nor should it, stop us using the concept of national identity so long as we de-construct it when necessary.

Krishan Kumar Britain, England and Europe


3 We can see something similar in the position of the new Eastern European applicants Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and others for membership of the European Union. They too have pasts the past not just of communist rule but in many cases of authoritarian political traditions stretching further back that they wish to annul. For them too accession to the EU would symbolize a fresh start. It would announce their arrival as equals to Western European nations, in a community of nations dedicated to the ideals of democracy, modernity and prosperity. 4 OLeary (1999) points out that the Belfast Agreement uniquely in United Kingdom constitutional experience combines both internal consociation (proportional power-sharing within Northern Ireland) and external confederalism (as shown in joint BritishIrish bodies such as the NorthSouth Ministerial Council, accountable to their respective national legislatures). This makes the nature of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland very different from that of the Union of Great Britain. The Agreement is the penultimate blow to unitary unionism in the UK, already dented by the 199798 referendums and legislative acts . . . The formation of an English Parliament would be the last blow (1999: 84). 5 Nairn has good reason to feel that his prescient earlier account, The Break-Up of Britain (1977/1981) has been vindicated. 6 I use, as is common, Britain as a shorthand for the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, though aware of the offence this can give, especially in Ireland. Where necessary I choose my terms more carefully. 7 See Paterson (1994). On the curiously incomplete character of the British state created by the Union of 1707, see Levack (1987). 8 On the variously constructed Europes, past and present, see especially Delanty (1995). See also Wilson and van der Dussen (1995); Pagden (2002). 9 See Weinbrot (1993). We should remember too that for some Scots, those who followed the Jacobite cause in the eighteenth century, the auld alliance remained vital for nearly a century after the Union with England. In effect it remained part of the cultural repertoire that could be drawn upon when time and circumstance made it expedient to do so. 10 For the transformation of Irish society since the 1960s not all of which therefore can be attributed to EC/EU membership see OMahony and Delanty (2001: 16775). As they say, undoubtedly, for many, to opt for Europe was to consciously oppose continued poverty and failure (2001: 175). Both they and Allen (2001) emphasize the contradictory and problematic nature of Irish progress in recent decades. 11 Europe, it has been suggested, can also be one of the answers to the Northern Ireland predicament. Northern Ireland can t into a Europe of the Regions, on the model of proposals for such regions as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Wallonia, Flanders, South Tyrol, etc. This, it is hoped, would loosen the hold of outmoded nationalist postures on the part of both unionists and Northern Ireland Catholics. A European identity for Northern Ireland could help kickstart it out of its position . . . as a continental backwater into the mainstream of European debate (Kearney, 1997: 86). Such a European solution is further seen within the context of a Council of the Islands of Britain and Ireland, eventually evolving towards a federal BritishIrish archipelago (Kearney, 1997: 11, 9195). The BritishIrish Council envisaged in the Belfast Agreement of 1998 can be seen as a step in that direction. It is also signicant that the Belfast Agreement originally suggested that Northern Ireland together with the Irish Republic could join the European Monetary Union even if the rest of Britain

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remained outside: a possibility that seems to have been closed by the UK Northern Ireland Act which declared currency to be a reserved matter (OLeary, 1999: 83 n. 19). Although it is interesting to note that when Welsh nationalism as expressed in Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist Party), launched in 1925 developed it was strongly inuenced by European thought and culture, notably through Plaid Cymrus founding president, Saunders Lewis. Lewis, a Catholic convert, saw Wales as a nation of Europe, and of a Europe dened in terms of Latin Christendom and the lost values of the Middle Ages (Williams, 1991: 279). It is the idea of England as the elect nation, found in English Protestant theology of the sixteenth century, that has led some scholars to see the Protestant Reformation as launching Englands insular and anti-European self-conception (see, e.g. Haller, 1963; Jones, 2000). But the doctrine of the elect nation was by no means peculiar to Protestant England, having been anticipated in fact more than a century earlier by Catholic France. See Strayer (1971). It is a misunderstanding of this point that partly makes Liah Greenfeld (1992: 2987) mistakenly see England as the inventor of European nationalism in the sixteenth century. For a particularly good study of one of the most popular and inuential of these Whig historians, G.M. Trevelyan, see Cannadine (1997: esp. 95140). This isolationism is of course relative. England, like the rest of Britain, has never been cut off entirely from European developments, even after the Reformation and the cultivation of an English ideology of uniqueness. For the continuing involvement with continental culture and politics, see Reeve (1999); Scott (2000). See Favell ( 2001: 210). Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the other hand argues that Europe can be an opportunity for the ethnic minorities, of all backgrounds, as Europe is itself made up of minorities. No single ethnic group in the European Union is big enough to be a majority . . . We need to promote the idea and image of Europe not as some white Greco-Roman, Christian enclave, but as consisting of tribes . . . which include the Romanies as well as the French and English or British Muslims and German Muslims (2001: 115).

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Shore, Cris (2000) Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European Integration. London and New York: Routledge. Shore, Cris and Black, Annabel (1994) Citizens Europe and the Construction of European Identity, in Victoria A. Goddard, Joseph R. Llobera and Cris Shore (eds) The Anthropology of Europe: Identity and Boundaries in Conict, pp. 27598. Oxford and Providence, RI: Berg Publishers. Siedentop, Larry (2001) Democracy in Europe. London: Penguin Books. Smout, T.C. (1994) Perspectives on the Scottish Identity, Scottish Affairs 6: 10113. Strayer, Joseph R. (1971) France: The Holy Land, the Chosen People, and the Most Christian King, in J.R. Strayer, Medieval Statecraft and the Perspectives of History, pp. 30014. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Therborn, Gran (1995) European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies 19452000. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1982) The Unity of the Kingdom: War and Peace with Wales, Scotland and Ireland, in Robert Blake (ed.) The English World, pp. 10010. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers. Weale, Albert (1995) From Little England to Democratic Europe, New Community 21(2): 21525. Weinbrot, Howard D. (1993). Britannias Issue: The Rise of British Literature from Dryden to Ossian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wilson, Kevin and van der Dussen, Jan, eds (1995) The History of the Idea of Europe. London and New York: Routledge. Williams, Gwyn (1991) When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh. London: Penguin Books. Wittrock, Bjrn (2000) Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition, Daedalus 129(1): 3160. Yapp, M.E. (1992) Europe in the Turkish Mirror, Past and Present 137: 13455.
Krishan Kumar is William R. Kenan, Jr Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, US. Previously he was Professor of Social and Political Thought at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England. His publications include Prophecy and Progress (1978), Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (1987), From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society (1995), and 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals (2001). He has just completed The Making of English National Identity, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2003. Address: Department of Sociology, University of Virginia, P. O. Box 400766, Charlottesville, VA 229044766, USA. [email: kk2d@virginia.edu]

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