Island Stories: Unravelling Britain

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Verso, 1999 - History - 391 pages
A luminous sequel to the highly acclaimed first volume of Theatres of Memory, Island Stories is an engrossing journey of discovery into the multiple meanings of national myths, their anchorage in daily life and their common sense of a people's destiny. Raphael Samuel reveals the palimpsest of British national histories, offering a searching yet affectionate account of the heroes and villains, legends and foibles, cherished by the "four nations" that inhabit the British Isles. Samuel is interested by the fact that traditions can disappear no less abruptly than they were invented. How is it, he asks, that the Scots have lost interest in a British narrative of which they were once a central protagonist? Why is the celebration of "Britons" thriving today just as its object has become problematic? Island Stories marvelously conveys the mutability of national conceits. Samuel calls as witness a galaxy of authorities--Bede and Gerald of Barri, Macaulay and Stubbs, Shakespeare and Dickens, Lord Reith and Raymond Williams, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn--each of whom sought to renew the sense of national identity by means of an acute sense of the past. Island Stories is a luminous study of the way nations use their past to lend meaning to the present and future. This sequel to the widely acclaimed Theatres of Memory is as passionate, unexpected and enjoyable as its predecessor.

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ISLAND STORIES: Unravelling Britain

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A collection of scholarly, oddly compelling essays that aim to unravel the complexities of British identity. Historian Samuel intended Island Stories—the second installment of a planned trilogy—to ... Read full review


The Idea of Nation
Four Nations History
Unravelling Britain
The Imperial and the Domestic
The Tower of London
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Historys Battle for a New Past
The Legacy of R H Tawney
A Preliminary
The Tory Party at Prayer
Mrs Thatcher and Victorian Values
Reading the Runes

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About the author (1999)

Raphael Samuel (1934-1996) was a tutor in History at Ruskin College, Oxford, and a founding editor of History Workshop Journal. His works include Theatres of Memory and Island Stories, also from Verso. For more information about his work, see The Raphael Samuel History Centre and Archive online.

Gareth Stedman Jones is a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge University and in 2010 become Professor of the History of Ideas at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of An End to Poverty? and Languages of Class: Studies in Working-Class History 1832-1982.

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