David Marquand

Euroscepticism Blown out of the Water

The Isles

By

Macmillan 1,222pp £30 order from our bookshop

Sooner or later, nations get the histories they need – different ones, of course, at different times. The early Victorians needed Macaulay’s brash, materialistic Whiggery; their less confident descendants a century later needed the more nuanced version offered by G M Trevelyan. By the same token, the bemused, post-imperial, post-modern citizens of the unravelling British state of our day need a post-Whig interpretation of their collective past. The Whig historians were instinctively Protestant and, irrespective of nationality, quintessentially English. They equated England with Britain and the English with the British. They took it for granted that the British were the pre-eminent champions of civil and religious liberty as well as the inventors of parliamentary government. They saw success in the race for empire as a reward for virtue, and the ties of empire as fundamental to the national identity they also took for granted. Above all, they saw mainland Europe as the Other against which the British defined themselves.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,