The future of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and adjacent islands is in flux again – as it has been repeatedly for millennia. This book will tell the story of the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and others who have occupied these isles, along with their culture, languages and passions. It charts the kaleidoscope of overlapping and conflicting identities, along with the changing role of women and the stories of emigrants and immigrants. England conquered Wales in the middle ages and formed unions with Scotland in 1707 and Ireland in 1801. Britain was fashioned by the opportunities of the largest empire the world has seen, coupled with a desire to defend Protestantism against a largely Catholic Europe.
It was always a fragile union, however. Ireland broke away in 1922 after a war of independence. As the empire crumbled, nationalism grew in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK, was wracked by a 30-year civil war. Even the name of the islands is contested: is it the ‘British Isles’ or ‘Britain and Ireland’ or the ‘Atlantic Archipelago’? Although Scotland voted against independence in a 2014 referendum, nationalists are pressing for a further vote. The future of the nations is in question again, with vital consequences for all their inhabitants and for the world.
This will be a cultural, historical and social examination of the past, present and future relationship between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, along with the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and other isles. It will follow the broad historical narrative, though with a strong focus on social and cultural themes. As with Brian Groom’s first book Northerners: A History, from the Ice Age to the Present Day, it will have an emphasis on personalities. The book will cover 200 million years of history, with a particular focus on the colourful and pivotal parts, such as the 1707 union between Scotland and England and the Irish campaign for independence. Themes include the part played by religion and the British Empire. The nations’ influential diasporas will be examined, as well as migration within the islands. The book will cover popular culture, sport, music, language, literature and art. Northern England will remain a big part of the story, along with other English regions. It will examine the state of the nations, the feelings of their inhabitants and the prospects for further changes in the relationship between them.
Brian Groom is a journalist and one of the foremost experts on British regional and national affairs. His career was spent mainly at the Financial Times, where he did many of the top writing and editing jobs. He is also a former editor of Scotland on Sunday, which he launched as deputy editor and which won many awards. Originally from Stretford, Lancashire (now part of Greater Manchester), he returned to live in the north – in Saddleworth, south Pennines – in 2015.
Brian went to Manchester Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he got a first-class BA in English Lang...
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