When and why did the United Kingdom come into being? What were the steps which led to its conception? Was the creation of the United Kingdom a symptom of national coherence or of disunity between the countries that made up the Union? Did a new national identity come into being as a consequence, or did old allegiances and loyalties become more deeply embedded? Who were the beneficiaries of the Union? Was the United Kingdom ever really united? Despite the result of the Scottish independence referendum, is the eventual breakup of the reconstituted United Kingdom inevitable? These and other questions will be addressed in this course. We will adopt a “four nations” approach to understanding the history of what Norman Davies refers to as “The Isles.” Although our focus will be primarily on the development of the United Kingdom since 1707, we will begin our analysis by studying the ancient and medieval connections between what we now know as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A number of key topics will be explored through the readings, including the steps to political union, the role of economic change, religion and education, poverty and social welfare, the rise of political radicalism, and the changing face of national identity.
- Teacher: Caoimhin De Barra