The Four Nations: A History of the United Kingdom / Edition 1

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Even by comparison to the United States, the United Kingdom has had a brief and fractious history. Its existence as an undivided entity lasted only for a disputatious 125 years, and its future remains precarious.

In The Four Nations, Frank Welsh offers a lively narrative history of the four component parts of the British Isles-England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Moving from the Roman period, which first defined many of the current internal boundaries, through the present day, Welsh describes the history of each nation, their interactions, and the impacts of crises ranging from the Norman Invasion to the Protestant Reformation to the two world wars of the twentieth century. Along the way, Welsh questions many cherished illusions and poses some awkward questions: To what extent were Scotland, Ireland, and Wales victims of predatory English aggression? How serious is the frequently invoked specter of national fragmentation?

Filled with illuminating vignettes and provocative insights, The Four Nations is an accessible and comprehensive introduction to the troubled histories of the British Isles.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Welsh (A History of South Africa, etc.) examines over 2,000 years of the history of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, focusing on how these nations interacted to shape one another's history. Unsurprisingly, England is the major player here. The history of Scotland and Ireland is largely a matter of their attempts to remain free of, and then accommodate to, a hegemonic England. Welsh begins with the Roman conquest of Britannia and establishment of the modern-day borders of England, Scotland and Wales. He concludes in the year 2001, considering whether "the end of the United Kingdom" is at hand (to those who fear it, he replies that "the unitary state had been disintegrating for over a century"). After detailing the construction of the U.K., Welsh devotes most of the latter part of the book to events in Ireland-from the failed Rising of 1798 to the Great Irish Famine, Gladstone and the failure of Home Rule, the partition of Ireland, sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland and the present-day peace process. By comparison, Welsh's treatment of Scotland and Wales is minimal. Welsh has chosen breadth of coverage over depth. We get only a few pages, for instance, on the 1688 Glorious Revolution-one of the seminal events in British history-and surprisingly little on WWII. Nor is there much about the development of the British Empire. Welsh's narrative is too often a dry recitation of well-known dates and names, rarely delving below the surface or offering fresh insight. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Welsh (A Borrowed Place: The History of Hong Kong) writes of the creation, then the ongoing breakup, of the United Kingdom into its component nations of England, Scotland, and Wales, with Ulster predicted to join a secular united Ireland. Did the others leave, or did England offload them like too much baggage? Within the political context of the European Union, which has erased borders more substantial than those within the United Kingdom, Welsh argues that England never forced union on Wales and Scotland and that Scotland's and Wales's growing autonomy are not based on popular movements. Rather, England is kicking Scotland and Wales out of Westminster, however much it might appear that they choose to leave; devolution, rather than nationalism, is responsible for the breakup. No matter how much one analyzes each by-election in Wales and Scotland, the author's own text provides both sides of the argument with ammunition. In trying to dismiss the growth of Scottish and Welsh nationalism as just another tactic of the political parties, methinks Welsh doth protest too much. Worth a read and the debates it will spark, this is recommended for academic libraries, and public libraries may want to consider.-Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, North Billerica, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300093742
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 532
  • Product dimensions: 1.19 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Ch. 1 54 B.C.-A.D. 500
Fiercest and most distant of men 1
Barbarian concerns 15
The end of Britannia 19
Ch. 2 A.D. 500-1066
The first English kingdom 23
Saints and scholars 31
Picts, Scots, Britons and Anglians 40
Furor Normannorum 42
The fateful year 54
Ch. 3 1066-1300
Family quarrels 58
A better pattern of living 63
Welshmen are Welshmen ... 79
Ch. 4 1300-1540
The wars of independence 87
Owain Glyn Dwr 97
Ireland is separate from the realm of England 101
Tudors and Stuarts 107
Ch. 5 1540-1603
The Elizabethan settlement 114
Reformation in Wales and Ireland 122
The monstrous regiment of women 138
An English nation? 144
Ch. 6 1603-1660
The royal Crowns united 146
Loose and absolved ... 151
Colonies nearer home 156
The King's head 161
An ill-favoured massacre 167
The second attempt at Union 175
Ch. 7 1660-1750
Restoration 179
Glorious Bloodless Revolution? 182
A Third World economy? 189
The Act of Union 196
Send us our boobies again 208
An affectionate, tender-spirited people 214
Ch. 8 1750-1830
Wild Geese 217
Who dares to speak of '98? 227
The proper distribution of loaves and fishes 236
Scotland has long groaned under the chains of England 240
Unfinished business 250
Ch. 9 1830-1860
Protestant ascendancy and Catholic degradation 261
The Great Hunger 265
Infant Ireland 273
Welsh bards and Scotch dominies 278
Ch. 10 1860-1893
Bold Fenian men 288
My mission is to pacify Ireland 296
The Kilmainham Treaty 303
I cannot allow it to be said ... 309
Justice for Scotland ... 316
Drink and divinity 320
Ch. 11 1893-1950
The last of the Liberals 325
There are things stronger ... 333
Gallant allies 342
The 'War of Independence' 347
New nations 350
Free State to Republic 357
Lay the lash upon their backs 365
Ch. 12 1950-2001
Not just yet 370
Ye Happie Ilands ... 375
Oil and vinegar 380
Languages are the pedigree of nations 387
Ireland North and South 392
The end of the United Kingdom? 397
More unfinished business 406
Notes 413
Bibliography 437
Index 455
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