History in Schools & Citizenship



National Identity and Belongingness

History Syllabus & Citizenship

Resources on History teaching and the Citizenship Curriculum prepared for Helen Weinstein

Almost from the moment when it arrived in power in 1997 the New Labour government has attempted to revive the language of 'Britishness'. In a speech given to the Fabian Society in January 2006 the then chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown argued that what modern Britain needed was a 'modern expression of patriotism'. Brown's speech argued that what characterised this modern Britishness was 'tolerance and inclusion'.

But this new Britishness has been challenged by those who believe that what we are seeing today is the 'end of Britain'. The idea of the 'end of Britain' has a long history, but the last decade has been remarkable for the appearance of a range of books and television programmes which have argued that the British state that was established in 1707 will soon be a thing of the past. With this presumed 'break-up of Britain' has come a revived interest in the subsidiary national identities, and particularly that enigmatic and elusive quality, Englishness.

As well as reviving interest in the origins of the British state, the current political climate has raised questions about whether it is at all possible to write a 'British' history. What do we include and what do we exclude when we use the category 'Britain'? Is there such a thing as an unchanging British national identity that has been passed down from generation to generation? These pages explore some of these questions, and examine how the literature on Britishness has developed over the last two decades. 


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