Believing in Britain
Why is there such intense interest today in the idea of 'Britishness'? Does it really matter, and what is 'Britishness' anyway? Why does the notion of 'being British' seem to have most resonance amongst recent immigrant - especially Asian and Afro-Caribbean - communities? And why is that 'traditional' British values now seem to be most widely practised and cherished by newcomers, not by the dominant majority?This book answers these vital questions by making a unique contribution to the current debate about British identity. It investigates why Liverpool is the most British of UK cities, with a regional accent representing a medley of Welsh, Scots, Irish and English, how a small village off the M6 motorway is arguably Britain's spiritual heart, and what theme parks, airport shops and eating habits have to tell us about the contemporary national character. It is often claimed that Great Britain is one of the most secular nations on earth. But - controversially - Ian Bradley argues that Britishness is best envisaged as a series of overlapping identities which are at root religious. He views the 400 year-old Union Jack, with its overlaid crosses of three of the nation's four patron saints, as symbolising the United Kingdom's unparalleled combination of unity in diversity, the diversity of a society which now embodies Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and many other - including secular - traditions. He goes on to argue that 'Britishness' has special value as a broad church measure of spiritual and cultural inclusiveness - and as a positive alternative to fundamentalism, narrow nationalism and jingoism. The author explores in separate chapters the distinctive contributions to Britishness made over the centuries by the Celtic traditions of the Welsh and Irish, the Anglo-Saxon strain of tolerance and freedom associated with the English, the moral seriousness of the Scots, and the characteristics of exuberance, modesty and privacy introduced by new black and Asian Britons. Published to coincide with the three hundredth anniversary of the 1707 Act of Union, his book offers a number of radical proposals. These include re-designing the Union flag to incorporate a black cross on a gold background, to better reflect the hybridity of contemporary Britain, and replacing George, Andrew and Patrick with a new trinity of patron saints - Columba, Bridget and Edward the Confessor. Ian Bradley contends that a rejuvenated BBC, monarchy and Commonwealth all have a part to play in forging a new sense of British identity which combines myth, imagination and tradition with a broad, open-minded inclusivity and respect for difference. Believing in Britain makes a consistently thoughtful and challenging contribution to one of the most important discussions of our time.
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