These Islands

Ali M. Ansari

‘Fantasy or not, revival and distinctiveness are essential to optimism and they figure prominently in These Islands, Ali Ansari’s pithy and elegant essay in support of Britishness.’


Invented to integrate conflicting nationalisms in an ‘ever more perfect union,’ in recent years Britain has succumbed to particular resurgent nationalisms in a curious reversal of fortune. The idea of Britain as a political entity sits awkwardly in the margins of this discussion, which considers some nationalists as suppressed minorities in need of attention, and others as bigoted throwbacks to a more divisive age.

Making the case for ‘Great Britain’ from the perspective of the political mythology of the British state – with an emphasis on culture, ideas and narrative constructions – Ansari claims that Britain’s strength lies in its ability to shape the popular imagination, both at home and abroad. An excess of enthusiasm, he suggests, may yet do untold damage to the fabric of a state and society that has been carefully constructed, and will not be easily repaired.

ALI M. ANSARI is a professor of Modern History with reference to Iran at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where he is also the founding director of the Institute of Iranian Studies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Ansari is the author of Iran: A Very Short Introduction and Iran, Islam and Democracy.

Find Ali on Twitter @aa51_ansari

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