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Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  584 ratings  ·  38 reviews
How was Britain made? And what does it mean to be British? In this brilliant and wide-ranging book, Linda Colley explains how a new British nation was invented in the wake of the 1707 Act of Union, and how a new national identity was forged through war, religion, trade and imperial expansion. Powerful and timely, this lavishly illustrated book is a major contribution to ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 2nd 1996 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Sep 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In the past three decades the historical discipline has seen a shift away from issues of political strife and economics to less concrete questions such as identity, nationalism, and ideology. This example is a well-written and thought-provoking attempt to challenge historiographic paradigms, but weakened by overstatements and some serious omissions.

Colley sets herself a challengingly expansive task, attempting to cover major themes such as religion and empire from the Act of Union (1707) to the
The current, and ongoing for the foreseeable future, business of Brexit adds a further facet to this book. Identity, group identity, Benedict Anderson's (view spoiler) Imagined Communities (view spoiler) ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pretentious grad students, people wanting to know british history
The first time I read through this book I was floored. Colley's writing challenged me, made em e look at colonialism in different ways, and really made me want to study the disparate British identities that existed within the empire. It gave me my master's thesis topic, which studied the development of eighteenth century "Britishness" and its context in both the metropole and the colonial site.

However, upon second and third reads, the book is problematic. Her discussion of Britain as a primarily
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: European Historians, History students, Brits
Recommended to Michael by: Terrence MacIntosh
Linda Colley wrote this book to address certain questions: First, how did the diverse peoples of the British Isles go from being several "nations" to one? Beyond that, what is this "British" identity which the English (themselves of Anglo and Saxon origin), the Welsh, and the Scots created? Finally, Colley asks why women and men chose to become patriotic to Britain, and with what results?

To address these questions, Colley applies Benedict Anderson’s concept of an “imagined community” as a means
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comps
Upshot= Britain forged by war with France and Protestantism. Lower class men and all women effected as much change in becoming part of the political establishment by working within the system as against it. Colley says this far better, however, and it is absolutely worth reading it in its entirety.
Lauren Albert
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-british
Reading The Penguin History of Britain, I finally came up to volume 7, Colley’s A Wealth of Nations, only to discover that not only did I not own it as I thought, but not a single copy was for sale on Amazon. What I DID own was two other of her books on overlapping periods including this one which also starts in 1707 but ends a bit later. I do wonder if the books are versions of the same book.

This is a great look at how Great Britain came to form an idea of itself as a nation. She never ignores
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book but I couldn't concentrate on it. I kept putting it down and picking it up again. I think I read the first two chapters three or four times. I did finally finish though. All year, every time I saw it on my desk, the first thing to pop into my head was Monty Python - "I am Arthur, King of the Britons!"
"Who are the Britons?"
"WE are! We're all Britons. And I am your King!"
"I thought we were an autonomous collective."
Anyway, there was a lot of food for thought here. I can see
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, for-school
Took me a while, not because Colley’s book was uninteresting and difficult, but more because I kept starting and stopping to read other things for class!

What Colley has written is an intriguing insight into the creation and current state of the British identity! As an American studying British history, it has been an indispensable resource for my research. She writes about complex ideas of nationality and politics in a way that even someone not well versed in this discussion can understand.

Margaret Pinard
Excellently written, fascinating subject!

+15 sassenach: highlander term for lowlander and english alike; welsh north & south divide; defoe poem about ethnic diversity of english
16 northumberland: over 1/4 adults literate, equal to Lowlands, higher than Midlands; 'raw, high-boned faces & the same thin, angular physiques'
19 catholics treated as potential traitors while Dissenters indulged, Anglican conformity being hoop for holding public office
21 Protestant Almanack image
23 Gordon Riots
It was rather dry and tedious but I definitely learned a lot about the British national identity. It is clear the Colley's knowledge is extensive. It is also clear that much research went into this work. This is definitely not a bed time read novel.
Major Thesis: how the dis-separate nations of England, Scotland, and Wales forge themselves into Britain? (hint: economics)

a "history" textbook; not for the amateur.
Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If you are crazy about George III and 18th and 19th century British culture and politics, then this book is for you. It is the best history I have ever read.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mid 5. Colley has produced a superb blend of robust scholarship and narrative power to provide the definitive account of the rise of British identity through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In so doing, she has shifted the focus on to the historical currents which forged both unstinting mass allegiance to the national identity and the existing political order during this period, covering the Act of Union in 1701 to the accession of Victoria in 1837. The root-cause for these attitudes ...more
Dan Gorman
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
Excellent history of the formation of the modern British state. Linda Colley shows how Protestantism and a fear of invasion united the Welsh, English, and Scots under a new British identity, opposed in war and culture to the French and Spanish Catholics. She notes that present-day diversity (1992, when Colley published this book) threatens those Britons who would prefer that the traditional Protestant, exceptionalist outlook survive. Colley's attention to the pitfalls of nationalism is well ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book that brings to life a topic that is so easily overlooked. Britons brings together dense and nuanced material seamlessly, while also being accessible.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in pre-modern history. Britons not only reinformed my understanding of Georgian Britain and England but also helped make sense of modern Britain. This book has been and will continue to be relevant. Recent events including the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 and the
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid academic history of how the notion of a British nation emerged. Colley looks at it through a number of factors including embattled Protestantism, the shift in an aristocracy from many local ones to a single larger one and the role of women. I found this engaging and enlightening and especially interesting from my parochial view, to see how it lines up with the creation of American identity.
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haunting to revisit in light of Brexit.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book on the creation of nationalism in Britain
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting look at the development of Great Britain, as three kingdoms and one state.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This historical writing at its best: engagingly written, solidly researched, convincingly argued, clearly organized. Although the author had a clear thesis and arguments to make, I did not feel as if she was forcing the evidence to fit an agenda. Highly recommended for anyone interesting in the subject or just wanting to enjoy some fascinating, well-written history.
David Nichols
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
In the field of political history, the turn toward “political culture,” toward the study of parades and badges and election day rituals, and of how patricians and plebes used these public performances to conduct politics by other means, often favored the viewpoint of the elite rather than the rank-and-file. Elites have long understood the usefulness of political theater in securing their hegemony, which one may define as the widely-held faith in the immutability of the status quo. Such was ...more
Robert Monk
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a weird time to be in the British Isles. Essentially, the inhabitants went from being four (or more; northern England could seem quite strange to folks from the South) distinct countries, to one United Kingdom. This book is about the process of the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish coming together to become British. Which, for a while, they sort of did. (It could be that the process is undoing itself now, but that's a subject for another book.) ...more
Was recommended this as a story of "the middle," the relationship of the quotidian British subject with his or her state as Britain became the largest empire in the history of...the world (measured by land possessed). And Colley does this through examination of mass pamphlets, political cartoons, petitions, registers, etc. I'm convinced by Colley repeated assertion that this study of things we take as a matter of course (such as the mechanics of mass patriotism) are actually poorly understood ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now 23 years old, Britons is one of those history texts that seems permanently relevant, dealing as it does with the questions of national identity and belonging that seem ever more insistent and impose themselves with ever more clamour on our national life. The book is by no means a "traditional" recounting of British history, although the thematic chapters are broadly in chronological order. Colley's thesis is that the forging of "British" national identity out of the distinct identities of ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Colley's argument is that oour concepts of Britishness were forged in the 130 years after the Act of Union with Scotland and Victoria coming to the throne. The bedrock of British identity was Protestantism and commerce, the latter precipitating the series of wars which established Britain's ascendency over the French and its glibal empires. She sees the book as a counter-weight to the stress British historians, under the infuence of Marxism,place on analysing and celebrating opposition currents, ...more
Mark Walker
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can't recommend this highly enough. Thought provoking thematic and chronological. Over a century of history to cover and she effortlessly tells a compelling narrative, and is very lucid. Unlike some history writers she wears her learning lightly, and is interested in educating readers. A great and trustworthy coverage of the period and a starting point to examine the themes and events in more detail. She has a gift for drawing out fascinating issues that make sense of the period, and also ...more
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Scot I have spent my entire life being frustrated that neither the English (in general) or those foreign to the United Kingdom cannot grasp that British and English are not coterminous. This book explains why, and explains the historic development of what is neither a unitary or a federal state, but a Union state.

The main themes are economic nationalism (mercantilism), Imperialism and a shared Protestant existential fear of the Catholic powers of France and Spain.

Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written and engaging book about English history. Colley really brings to light various issues that may be overlooked or forgotten about how the notion of Britishness has been created. The book is set out in, more or less, chronological sections, but, tactfully, she also weaves in certain key aspects such as religion, monarchy, women, and so on, as she deals with the events sequentially.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Colley is an excellent writer: even though I was reading this book for an exam, I enjoyed her writing tremendously and wanted to continue reading all the time. It has a clear narrative that makes sense and is presented well. The book is also full of fascinating examples of real historical events and people.
Daniel Conner
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forging of the British Isles from the joining of crowns in 1707 into the Victorian age. While England and Scotland are represented, little attention overall is paid to that of Wales and Ireland. A more incorporating history of ALL Britons would be a more thorough and conclusive historiography.
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