Island Stories: Unravelling Britain

Front Cover
Verso, 1998 - History - 391 pages
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. Raphael Samuel is interested by the fact that traditions can disappear no less abruptly than they were invented. How is it, her 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 be 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

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Contents

The Idea of Nation
3
Four Nations History
21
Unravelling Britain
41
The Imperial and the Domestic
74
The Tower of London
101
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
125
North and South
153
The Voice of Britain
172
The Return of History
214
The Legacy of R H Tawney
233
The SDP and the New Middle Class
256
Ancestor Worship
272
The Tory Party at Prayer
323
Mrs Thatcher and Victorian Values
330
Reading the Runes
351
Index
371

Historys Battle for a New Past
197

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About the author (1998)

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.

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