Brexit and Nationalism

EnglishbreakfastSo this is a pretty quick turn-around podcast, but that’s because I’m responding direct to the new…imagine, a medievalist on a current events deadline.  I would never have thunk it.  But I’m talking about the Brexit!  It helps that actually I got the idea for this podcast a few days prior to the remarkable British vote to leave the EU.Even as I write this, I’m planning a trip to the UK (Manchester and Leeds to be precise.)  I don’t know how much information I’ll come away with from that, but if there’s lots of new thoughts generated by just being there, perhaps I’ll add an update.

In this podcast, I discuss some of the history of nationalism (well, really just provide a thumbnail sketch) and of nation states and state-craft in Europe.  With that background, I try to draw a dichotomy or tension between the demands of national state identities and the demands of free market ideology.  This dichotomy, to me, is the only particularly relevant or interesting parallel between US politics and the UK vote, although people are talking up all sorts of other similarities.  This podcast, more than a lot of them, leaves a ton of material unresolved and hints at a ton of other topics.  There’s a short bibliography below, but there’s just so much more, so feel free to e-mail.

This is a pretty hefty podcast, but it’s not quite a dinner, so I’m calling it a British Breakfast…if you’ve ever had one, you gotta want it, but if you do, it’s delicious.  The tomatoes and beans come from the Americas, obviously, and eggs are eaten everywhere, but somehow the British are the only ones in Europe who have laid claim to such a substantial breakfast as beans, roasted tomatoes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast all on one plate.  Personally, I really love it.


Brown, Elizabeth A. R. (October 1974). “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe”. The American Historical Review 79 (4): 1063–88.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983.

Newman, Gerald. The Rise of English Nationalism: A Cultural History, 1740–1830. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.


Adam Franklin-Lyons on the Investiture Controversy

John Merriman on Nationalism (Yale Open Courses)

John Merriman on WWI

Thomas Laqueur on Nation States (Berkeley Lectures)

Thomas Laqueur on WWI