Parliaments, Nations, and Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1660-1850

Parliaments, Nations, and Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1660-1850

Parliaments, Nations, and Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1660-1850

Parliaments, Nations, and Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1660-1850

Synopsis

In 1660 the four nations of the British Isles were governed by one imperial crown but by three parliaments. The abolition of the Scottish and Irish Parliaments in 1707 and 1800 created a UK of Great Britain and Ireland centered upon the Westminster legislature. This book address questions about how this monolith affected identities in the four nations. From a wide variety of perspectives, it shows how the parliaments at Dublin, Edinburgh and, especially, Westminster, were seen and used in very different ways by people from very different communities. Parliament may have been conceived as a repository of "the" national interest, but in practice it was the site of four national and multiple cross-national identities.

Excerpt

Julian Hoppit

In 1660 the four nations of the British Isles were governed by one imperial crown but by three parliaments. In 1707 the Edinburgh parliament was abolished and the Scots given some representation at Westminster. In 1801 something similar happened to the Dublin parliament. At the same time (though somewhat independently) what Westminster did in terms of legislation, legal appeals, debate and inquiry developed significantly and in 1832 the nature of its representation was overhauled. Consequently, the nineteenth century marked the heyday of the idea of an imperial parliament and an imperial crown. But what did the making of that monolith mean for the four nations? Did conceptions of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh identities flourish, mutate or wither as a consequence of the growth of the imperial parliament and to what extent did that parliament help or hinder a developing sense of Britishness as a new nationality? These are the questions at the heart of this volume of essays and the answers to them are strikingly multi-faceted. Though it might be expected that the unification of the parliaments of Britain and Ireland was integral to the development of Britishness, the essays here suggest that at those parliaments both distinctions and similarities were drawn between nations. Moreover, parliaments contributed to non-national as well as national identities within Britain and Ireland, with the former sometimes cutting across the latter. Though Westminster was frequently celebrated as the fount of absolute power and a guardian of liberty and property within the British imperial polity, it was used and seen in very different ways by highly distinctive communities, some national, some not.

In recent years much has been written from very different intellectual perspectives about the relationship between state formation and national identity, both for the distant past and the immediate present. In Britain and Ireland this is a very current concern because of developments within the European Union and the creation of devolved representative institutions at Cardiff, Edinburgh and Stormont in the late 1990s. More broadly, the traumas caused by numerous states pursuing nationalist agendas across the twentieth century have prompted considerable and often multi-disciplinary studies of the nature of geo-political identities. Initially . . .

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