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When was Britain?

The assertion of national identities within the United Kingdom has left Britain in an identity muddle. Englishness, stripped of Britishness, has acquired illiberal connotations. But Neal Ascherson hopes that a benign English identity can now "come out"-within a European embrace

By Neal Ascherson   May 1996

Jim Bloggs, 101 Inkerman Terrace, Scratfield, Staffordshire, England, Great Britain, Europe, the World, the Galaxy, the Universe…” When schoolchildren used to write things like that in the front of their books, they were producing a classic old model of identities. It was a concentric model. It was seen from the central dot of all those concentric rings: the individual. Your house was the nearest ring; the universe the most remote. It was also a list of overlapping memberships. You “came from” the Potteries, but were also English. You were British, but also European, Terran, Galactic, Universal.

The question which the…

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