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British History and Brexit April 13, 2017

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

Was talking to a German friend who works in Brussels and needless to say the conversation veered onto Brexit, the impact on EU Staff and British ones especially and then we veered to History .
History was a massive part of the Brexit vote, Leaflets mentioned everything from The Magna Carta to The Empire. Brexit was harking back to the 1950’s, to the period just after the war. From Brexit you got the impression that for many British History stopped after World War two , had a blip with the Falklands but that was it.
Yet at the very same time that this percieved British History stopped, German History began or at least how Germans percieved their history began…. collectivley you can’t really go before 1945.
There are very few Countries in the EU now that haven’t had radical changes since 1945. Be it Independence , rebuilding after the war, the collapse of the Soviet Union and The Eastern Bloc, Dictators and Military juntas being deposed and so on. Yet for all that period The UK was stable, there were things that excited the patriotic fervour like The Falklands War .
So where The UK harks back , many countries in The EU are looking forward from the past ….. Which in a way I suppose goes to the heart of the European project, namely Peace and Stability.


1. Starkadder - April 14, 2017

“Yet for all that period The UK was stable, there were things that excited the patriotic fervour like The Falklands War .”

Perry Anderson said somewhere (” ‘Components of the National Culture?”) ,that Britain had never suffered occupation, conquest, civil war or revolution by 1945, and said this was partly responsible for what Anderson saw as Britain’s parochial and deferential society.


2. CL - April 14, 2017

” Rather than being obsessed by empire, the British have largely consigned the whole imperial experience to George Orwell’s “memory hole”. Most British people, including leading politicians, are profoundly ignorant of the country’s imperial history…..
But for the Brits themselves, shaping a national story that centres around the war against the Nazis — rather than the empire — makes psychological sense. It has allowed Britain to nurture a national self-image as champions of freedom and plucky underdogs (captured in the eternal popularity of the television programme Dad’s Army) rather than imperialist oppressors….”


Starkadder - April 14, 2017

Which reminds me-how often do we see a Western-produced film that shows the British Empire in a bad light? I can only think
of “Gandhi”, “Michael Collins” and “The Wind that Shakes The Barley”. Though you could also include films about the American Revolution (like “The Patriot”).


3. sonofstan - April 14, 2017

I’m not sure I entirely agree that history stops in 1945 for the English. The Miners’ Strike, for example, looms large in consciousness, and people’s attitudes to it are predicated almost entirely on class identification. Even those, who, I suspect wouldn’t have been entirely convinced at the time, now understand it for what it was; the death of a Britain in which the ‘old’ working class had a stake. Similarly, while I agree that the Empire as a sort of NGO for the betterment of the lesser races view is popular, you need to remember than about 10% – more if you include the Irish – of the population of England has roots in the subject peoples of that same empire and may be less illusioned.

On that last; the history of post-war immigration is taught, and as I understand it, celebrated, in schools as ‘the Windrush generation’. What probably is an aporia is Englsh historical memory is any understanding of the EU – few people seem to know anything about the history or structure of the institutions that they voted to leave.


WorldbyStorm - April 14, 2017

In a way, and this is in no way to contradict IELs post there are parallel histories or awarenesses and the one he points to in the original post I think does hold true for a cohort and one that has a certain media dominance. And as you also say there are different narratives extant amongst Irish, etc in the U.K. Or more radical histories.


WorldbyStorm - April 14, 2017

And re the EU, I’ve had a similar experience of sheer ignorance being the default situation.


4. Dafydd Williams - April 14, 2017

Good analysis. And it helps explain the visceral reaction to the struggle for independence in Scotland, not to mention collective amnesia about historical atrocities in Ireland and the suppression of Welsh and other Celtic languages.


5. roddy - April 14, 2017

Roll on integrated education so that everyone will get the “official” version of non British wrongdoing!


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