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These Islands: A Letter to Britain
Visiting Italy in the months preceding the Scottish referendum of 2014, Ali Ansari was struck by the admiration of Italian colleagues for the liberalism of a state that would allow, and even encourage, one of its constituent parts to resolve the question of their own independence. Such a development, they noted, would be inconceivable in Europe. In this fascinating contribution to the Haus Curiosities series, Ansari considers the idea of Britain as a political entity. Invented to integrate conflicting nationalisms in an ever more perfect union it has succumbed to particular resurgent nationalisms in a curious reversal of fortune. The idea of Britain sits awkwardly in the margins of this discussion, which considers some nationalists suppressed minorities, in need of attention, and others to be bigoted throwbacks to a more divisive age. Arguing the case for Great Britain from the perspective of the political mythology of the British state with an emphasis on culture, ideas and narrative constructions Ansari makes the claim that Britain s strength lies in its ability of shape the popular imagination, both at home and abroad, and that an excess of enthusiasm may yet do untold damage to the fabric of a state and society that has been carefully constructed and will not be easily repaired.
Ali Massoud Ansari is the Professor in Modern History with reference to the Middle East at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where he is also the founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies. He is a Member of the British Academy and a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Ali Ansari is the author of Iran: A Very Short Introduction (OUP) 

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