Writing Englishness, 1900-1950: An Introductory Sourcebook on National Identity

Writing Englishness, 1900-1950: An Introductory Sourcebook on National Identity

Writing Englishness, 1900-1950: An Introductory Sourcebook on National Identity

Writing Englishness, 1900-1950: An Introductory Sourcebook on National Identity

Synopsis

What did it mean in the first half of this century to say `I am English'? Writing Englishness: An Introductory Sourcebook is a unique collection of extracts from writings of the era, all of which in some way raise this question. Drawn from a wide range of sources including letters, diaries, journalism, fiction, poems, parliamentary speeches and government reports, the volume is divided into five sections: * The Ideas and Ideals of Englishness * Versions of Rural England * War and National Identity * Culture and Englishness * Domestic and Urban Englands The editors provide an introduction to each section and conclude with suggested study activities and further reading. It also contains a chronology and bibliography, completing the framework for study.

Excerpt

This book is about the construction of national identity, and one specific identity across a particular historical period: Englishness 1900 to 1950. It provides a sequence of extracts which-when viewed together-make it possible to explore some of the competing accounts of Englishness produced by writers, politicians, doctors, social-historians, journalists and ordinary people during the first half of the twentieth century. We have chosen to focus on the main ways in which English people thought about their nation and its culture during this period, and have concentrated upon a version of Englishness written by the English about England. We offer material on what might be called the 'common myths and historical memories' (Smith 1991:14) which contributed to the construction and maintenance of accounts of what it might mean to be 'English'. These myths, memories and other representations can never be divorced from the economies, geographical territories or social and legal structures which helped to produce them, since 'national identity is fundamentally multi-dimensional; it can never be reduced to a single element, even by particular factions of nationalists, nor can it be easily or swiftly induced in a population by artificial means' (ibid.).

The writings you will find in this book come from a variety of genres and modes-journalism, poetry, popular fiction, letters, literary fiction, speeches, educational and political writing. They should be read not simply as discrete texts but as part of a wider debate about England and Englishness, a debate which is located in specific historical circumstances and influenced by particular social structures and economic relations. Throughout the collection we use the short introductions to the various chapters to draw attention to the wider context in which these writings can be profitably read (see also the

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