I wonder if the booklet which started this thread was trying (badly) to make
some serious points; that Britain has been all sorts of things, from a loose
collection of tribes, to a global superpower, to, umm ..., whatever we are
today (but that's ok, too).
We have had an empire of our own, but we have also been part of other
people's empires. We have been 'An Island Nation', but of course we are all
descended from immigrants, sometimes much more recent than we realise. I
wonder how many 'English' people today are not at least partly Irish, Welsh,
Scottish, German, Jewish, Indian, African ... etc. Yes, I know we are all
African if you go back far enough, but I mean in the last 200 years or so.
And some of us are (partly) English immigrants to Scotland and other parts
Many of the people arriving in Britain now are from countries which our
ancestors ruled within living memory. 'They are here because we were there'
as it is sometimes put. This is quite different from the American or
Australian experiences of immigration, and a point worth making, because it
can affect how immigrants feel about Britain, and how the 'indigenous
population' feel about them. They have not come to (or from) another
planet, and they may have 300 years' worth of shared history with the rest
us before they even get off the plane. The history of the Empire (and
Commonwealth) is hugely important to put this in context, and there must be
some way of avoiding whitewash and bombastic jingoism on the one hand, and
harmful self-flagellation on the other. The critical sympathy of someone
like Mahatma Gandhi is a good starting place.
If this is what the booklet was trying to do, what a pity that it was
spoiled by schoolboy errors and a patronising tone. And if not, perhaps
someone else needs to do it. 'Our Island Story' for the 21st century. And,
at the risk (or in the hope) of starting another thread, what a scandal that
the Commonwealth Institute has closed down, and the magnificent 1960s listed
building in Holland Park is now at risk of demolition.