The Cultural Roots of British Devolution

The Cultural Roots of British Devolution

Michael Gardiner
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 200
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    The Cultural Roots of British Devolution
    Book Description:

    This book presents a provocative argument which suggests that cultural devolution preceded and indeed forced political change. A ‘post-British’ form of culture - as found across literature, education and philosophy - has long been in the making, arising especially in local communities who no longer see themselves as British.The author places this change in the context of post-imperial Britain in the second half of the20th century and looks at how underground cultures such as rave and reggae may have laid the foundations for a post-British culture. The various attempts to re-constitutionalise Britain are explored and the book ends with two key questions: how has the progress of a post-British culture been viewed in Scotland, and how do we pull a post-British England out of a devolutionary process which is liable to outstrip all British control?Key Features:*The first serious account of the history of the growing cultural division within Britain in the second half of the 20th century.*Accentuates the cultural roots of devolution, bringing them out from the shadow of party-political explanations.*Looks at the effects of devolution upon both Scottish and English culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7965-2
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter One When Was British Culture? (pp. 1-28)

    The year 1740 saw the now well-known first performance, in The Masque of Alfred, of the song Rule, Britannia! by the Scottish poet James Thomson. Voicing a desire to rule the waves appropriated from the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred, a figure with no connection to Britannia as such, the song is typical of contemporary Scottish demands for joint participation in a British ′national′ culture after three decades of relative indifference to the union on the part of England. As we know, the song become increasingly associated with the primary expression of British unity – empire – and the imperial Victoriana which...

  6. Chapter Two The First Scottish Renaissance (pp. 29-56)

    This chapter concerns one of the first important instances of post-British culture outside of Ireland, one arising at the time of Irish separation, from about 1921. It holds that, although the embryonic modern cultural nationalist movement, centred on the Scottish Renaissance′s key iconoclast Hugh MacDiarmid, moved Scottish national culture towards an international modernist stream of thought, its stance was nevertheless closer to the high-British ideas of T. S. Eliot and New Criticism than is usually admitted.¹ In particular, its rightly applauded stance towards Scots language nevertheless tended to standardise language and fix this standard to a historically static nation. Here...

  7. Chapter Three The Question of General Education (pp. 57-77)

    The educational systems of England and Wales on one hand, and Scotland on the other, have never been unified, except for certain aspects of higher education entry and overall funding. The Acts of Union guaranteed in principle the autonomy of each system, underscoring the importance of separate educational traditions; however there have always been debates over conceptual and curricular autonomy, coming into sharper focus in the 1960s. Education has assumed a primary significance in stateless Scotland, where education is viewed as fundamental to national identity. By 1707 there were already twice as many universities in Scotland than in England, served...

  8. Chapter Four Before Theory (pp. 78-101)

    The interdisciplinary mode of interpretation which became central to the study of Humanities in the 1970s and ′80s, and was generically known as theory, has frequently been identified as a post-Enlightenment critique. But what has so far been avoided, and to some extent has been blocked by many working in Scottish Studies, has been the way in which twentieth-century Scottish thought was quietly proactive in criticism of its own Enlightenment tradition, which had helped fix the nation′s place in the British union. Although the 1979 referendum failure is often seen as a watershed jolting Scotland into activity, long before this...

  9. Chapter Five England Without the Cricket Test (pp. 102-130)

    We have seen that the late-nineteenth-century split between quasifederal Greater British culture and local-nationalist culture was underlined by the upheavals of the years 1917 to 1927. ′Celtic′ nationalism and decolonisation were linked both indirectly, as part of an anti-imperial movement, and directly by the key colony of Ireland; Scottish nationalism became gradually more separatist from 1917 to 1997 (with unionist bumps in the mid-′30, ′50s and mid-′70s). The conditions for post-Britishness would be completed by independence movements which not only destroyed the empire even in its ′softer′ culturalist form of Greater Britain but also undermined assumptions which had long attributed...

  10. Chapter Six Can the Sub-Briton Speak? (pp. 131-155)

    I have suggested above how in the pre-devolutionary years, post-British cultural movements can be associated with a re-negotiation of sovereignty which often bypassed party politics. This has been noticeable not only in a divergence of images of England but also in other parts of Britain whose political representation became even more dissociated from state government after 1979. In the 1997 British general election in Scotland, the traditionally unionist party, the Conservative and Unionist Party then in government, returned no MPs at all; New Labour, largely thanks to the late John Smith, had to promise a referendum on devolution, about which...

  11. Chapter Seven Reading the Empire State (pp. 156-183)

    The preceding chapters have attempted to chart a path amongst powerful recent post-British perspectives, including Tom Nairn′s After Britain (2000), Robert Crawford′s Devolving English Literature (1992/2000), Cairns Craig′s Out of History (1996), and Murray G. H. Pittock′s Inventing and Resisting Britain (1997), all of which connect to wider debates over the union going back a couple of decades. After Britain may seem an odd mode given Nairn′s related subject matter in Faces of Nationalism (1997) and this study′s debt to The Break-up of Britain (1977). But it is in After Britain that Nairn nails the idea of post-British citizenship as...

  12. Index (pp. 184-192)


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