Imperialism and British National Identity: Nationalism, Identity and Memory
Linda Colley in her Britons: Forging the Nation describes the English identity as bound tightly to British imperialism. The imperial identity and its memories played one of the most dominant roles in shaping the attitudes, culture, society, economics and politics in Great Britain. The Britishness established first through their dominance in the British Isles and later the expansion of their overseas empire contributed to their national identity by shaping the minds and memories of the people. In last two decades, there is a growing interest in the past and memory in British History. Literary, cultural, intellectual and political history is highly interested in individual, collective, national and cultural memories and their influences both on history and societies themselves. The ways in which memory construction depends on how an individual experienced an event, the associations between memory, place and objects, how memories are commercialized, history and public memory, myth and memory and the relationship between the historical event and its depiction in popular culture. . In How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton concludes that “the communal memory is incorporated into ritualized body movements that he calls incorporating practices.” Human memory and communal memory are chaotic, that they may be theoretically explicable, but that they are the product of so many variables as to be practically random and unpredictable.
As a conclusion, this paper will look at the questions such as how do British remember the Empire? How did the Empire reflect in the national identity of the British? The answers to these broad questions mostly lay in the recent historiography on British nationalism as well as the methods of research on the historiography of nationalism, history and memory and identity. British identity in relation to imperialism, nationalism, decolonization and multiculturalism will be the center of this paper in relation with the theories of nationalism, identity and memory.
Keywords: Imperialism, Nationality, Identity, British History, Memory
Instructor, Ph.D Student, History Department, Texas Tech University