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Oak in a Flowerpot

Anthony Pagden: When Britons were slaves, 14 November 2002

Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 
by Linda Colley.
Cape, 438 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 224 05925 4
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... throughout the whole extent of the British Empire during the first 250 years of its history, that Linda Colley’s new book is concerned. Stories of captivity, almost always of Europeans at the hands of indigenous peoples, have for long been a staple of North American historiography. The materials are rich, and they offer extraordinary, often unsettling ...

Revolutionary Yoke

William Doyle: Le Nationalisme, 27 June 2002

The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism 1680-1800 
by David A. Bell.
Harvard, 304 pp., £30.95, November 2001, 0 674 00447 7
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... became a resource of government rather than opposition was memorably analysed ten years ago by Linda Colley in Britons. David Bell, a colleague of Colley when she was writing that book, now offers a parallel analysis of the French case. It has often been claimed that the French Revolution invented nationalism. Bell ...

A Long Silence

David A. Bell: ‘Englishness’, 14 December 2000

Englishness Identified: Manners and Character, 1650-1850 
by Paul Langford.
Oxford, 389 pp., £25, April 2000, 9780198206811
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... Earlier this summer, a leader in the Times attacked Tom Nairn, Eric Hobsbawm and especially Linda Colley for supplying a tendentious, politicised justification for the break-up of Britain. Citing a recent article by J.C.D. Clark, the Times claimed that Britain and Britishness, far from being ‘forged’ largely in the 18th century as ...
... and she could summon the mutes – or in her case the Whips – and destroy him in an instant.​Linda Colley, 7 September 2000 Westminster, in Alan Clark’s diary portrayal, was peopled almost wholly by buffoons and crooks. The Laird of Saltwood, it was evident, had no need to spend his days doing what they did: sucking up to Thatcher, plotting the ...

Enter Hamilton

Eric Foner, 6 October 2016

American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 
by Alan Taylor.
Norton, 704 pp., £30, November 2016, 978 0 393 08281 4
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... also mandating that slaves who managed to escape to another state be returned to their owners. As Linda Colley recently pointed out, written constitutions often function as ‘weapons of control, not just documents of liberation and rights’. Certainly this was true of the American example. Overall, the founders of the republic proved unwilling to ...

Managed by Ghouls

Tom Nairn: Unionism’s Graveyard, 30 April 2009

Union and Unionisms: Political Thought in Scotland, 1500-2000 
by Colin Kidd.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £15.99, December 2008, 978 0 521 70680 3
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... of British politics’. The backdrop was reinforced by common or joint Protestant beliefs, as Linda Colley argues in Britons, as well as by imperialism and British state warfare. Only when the former grew less salient and the latter came to be questioned and denounced, as was the case by the 1980s, could it be argued that ‘banal unionism was ...

Always on Top

Edward Said: From Birmingham to Jamaica, 20 March 2003

Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-67 
by Catherine Hall.
Polity, 556 pp., £60, April 2002, 0 7456 1820 0
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... lives. And to write imperial history from the standpoint of the coloniser as victim (as Linda Colley does in Captives, 2002) or to turn the whole business into a peripheral episode in the history of the eccentricities of the British upper classes (as David Cannadine does in Ornamentalism, 2001) is unhelpful. In Castes of Mind: Colonialism and ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah, 4 November 2004

by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... introductory section on women throughout the centuries – this also would be my responsibility.’Linda Colley, reviewing the book in this paper, thought the book ‘marred by Attallah’s masculine priorities . . . we get page after page devoted to stale questions such as whether women can go to bed with men for lust alone, and whether they are ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... MP, and she could summon the mutes – or in her case the Whips – and destroy him in an instant.Linda Colley, 7 September 2000 Westminster, in Alan Clark’s diary portrayal, was peopled almost wholly by buffoons and crooks. The Laird of Saltwood, it was evident, had no need to spend his days doing what they did: sucking up to Thatcher, plotting the ...


Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... of Charlotte Smith in The Old Manor House (1793). (Writing about these matters in Captives, Linda Colley underestimates the extent to which British perceptions of Native Americans in the period were mediated through fiction.) Among non-fictional accounts, Bage draws on Pierre de Charlevoix, Jonathan Carver and John Long. He borrows material ...

Who were they?

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: ‘Thuggee’, 3 December 2009

Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of ‘Thuggee’ 
edited by Kim Wagner.
Oxford, 318 pp., £22.99, January 2009, 978 0 19 569815 2
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... as aggressors but as victims, and here narratives of captivity (such as those retailed recently by Linda Colley) played a significant role. The central figure in these stories was the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, who was killed in his capital city of Srirangapatna in May 1799 by Company forces. After 1800, when there were few such iconic hate figures ...

Call Her Daisy-Ray

John Sturrock: Accents and Attitudes, 11 September 2003

Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol 
by Lynda Mugglestone.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 2003, 0 19 925061 8
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... second half of the 18th century, as an important tributary of that wider bonding movement which Linda Colley traces so well in Britons, whose effect was to imbue the scattered and diverse island population with a new sense of nationhood. The attempt to nationalise the language in this sense wasn’t in fact quite new, as Mugglestone begins her book by ...

Gove or Galtieri?

Colin Kidd: Popular Conservatism, 5 October 2017

Crown, Church and Constitution: Popular Conservatism in England 1815-67 
by Jörg Neuheiser, translated by Jennifer Walcoff Neuheiser.
Berghahn, 320 pp., £78, May 2016, 978 1 78533 140 4
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Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy 
by Daniel Ziblatt.
Cambridge, 450 pp., £26.99, April 2017, 978 0 521 17299 8
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Edmund Burke and the Invention of Modern Conservatism, 1830-1914: An Intellectual History 
by Emily Jones.
Oxford, 288 pp., £60, April 2017, 978 0 19 879942 9
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Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir 
by Ken Clarke.
Pan, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 5098 3720 5
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... that anti-Catholicism is one of the most powerful ideological forces in modern British history. Linda Colley, in Britons (1992), argues very persuasively that anti-Catholicism provided the very stuff of a new British identity in the century following the Union of 1707 and, embarrassingly, remained a presence in British politics, not only in Northern ...

Six French Frizeurs

David A. Bell, 10 December 1998

The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England during the French Revolution 
by Norman Hampson.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £40, June 1998, 0 333 73148 4
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Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders 
by Don Herzog.
Princeton, 472 pp., £18, September 1998, 0 691 04831 2
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... more or less influenced manners in England.’ Yet co-existing with this French influence was what Linda Colley has called a ‘vast superstructure of prejudice’, directed generally against Catholics, but particularly Catholics of the French persuasion. ‘It should flatter us,’ wrote the French novelist Fougeret de Montbron in 1757. ‘Every ...

Dazed and Confused

Paul Laity: Are the English human?, 28 November 2002

Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000 
by Richard Weight.
Macmillan, 866 pp., £25, May 2002, 0 333 73462 9
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Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom 
by Tom Nairn.
Verso, 176 pp., £13, September 2002, 1 85984 657 2
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Identity of England 
by Robert Colls.
Oxford, 422 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 19 924519 3
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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, October 2002, 1 85619 716 6
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... friend. It’s 25 years since Tom Nairn first willed the ‘Break-Up of Britain’, and ten since Linda Colley influentially explained that Britons were the product of particular historical conditions – conditions which have now disappeared. We have had the woe-is-England vapourings of Simon Heffer and the rushed observations of Andrew Marr. An ...

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