Patriotism and the Idea of Citizenship in Postwar British Politics

  • Paul Rich


‘We are always’, the eminent Whig historian G. M. Trevelyan once wrote, ‘throwing over our national traditions, in every thing except politics’1. This chapter will examine the ‘throwing over’ of one such tradition, that of patriotism and its relationship to the conception of citizenship in British politics. This can be seen as part of a wider movement in both European and international politics from the end of the nineteenth century towards a sharper legal definition of the frontiers of citizenship. As a recent volume of essays has pointed out, debates about citizenship are in essence debates about nationhood and what it means to belong to a national grouping.2 In the case of British nationhood, the issue became bound up with ideas from the late Victorian era for a wider conception of imperial citizenship linked to other countries and colonies of settlement of ‘English-speaking peoples’.3 This ideal had a remarkable tenacity in British politics, given the erosion of British power on the world stage by the end of the Second World War.


British Nationality British Subject Immigration Control Daily Telegraph British Citizenship 
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© Ursula Vogel and Michael Moran 1991

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  • Paul Rich

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