The Making of English National Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
By Krishan Kumar
Why is English national identity so enigmatic and so elusive? Why, unlike the Scots, Welsh, Irish and most of continental Europe, do the English find it so difficult to say who they are? The Making of English National Identity is a fascinating exploration of Englishness and what it means to be English. Drawing on historical, sociological and literary theory, Krishan Kumar examines the rise of English nationalism and issues of race and ethnicity from earliest times to the present day. He argues that the long history of the English as an imperial people has, as with other imperial people like the Russians and the Austrians, developed a sense of missionary nationalism which in the interests of unity and empire has necessitated the repression of ordinary expressions of nationalism. Professor Kumar's lively and provocative approach challenges readers to reconsider their pre-conceptions about national identity and who the english really are.
"Kumar's fine analysis has great import for contemporary debates about multiculturalism... his originality is an understanding of Englishness from 'the outside in', revealing an imperial character which by necessity has been so open to outside influence that today English identity is difficult to define except in mongrel terms."
--Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol.
"This is a major contribution to the debates about English and British identity that have been at the centre of literary studies, history, social science and studies of nationalism - and of public debate! - for the last decade. Kumar has mastered all these fields so as to produce the most convincing general interpretation of the subject now available."
--John A. Hall, James McGill Professor of Sociology, McGill University, Montreal.