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In this book, Linda Colley recounts how a new British nation was invented in the wake of the Act of Union between England and Wales and Scotland in 1707. She describes how a succession of major wars with Catholic France, culminating in the conflict with Napoleon, served as both a threat and a tonic, forcing the diverse peoples of this Protestant culture into a closer union and reminding them of what they had in common. She also shows how their world-wide empire gave men and women from different ethnic and social backgrounds a powerful incentive to be British. In the process, she not only demonstrates how an over-arching British identity came to be superimposed onto much older regional and national identities but she also illuminates why it is that these same older identities - be it Scottishness or Welshness or Englishness or regionalism of one kind or another - have reemerged and become far more important in the late 20th century. The aspirations and ambitions of individual Britons form an integral part of Colley's story. She supplies vignettes of well-known heros and politicians such as Horatio Nelson and William Pit the Younger, patriots such as Thomas Coram and John Wilkes and artists and writers who helped forge our image of Britishness - William Hogarth, David Wilkie, J.M.W. Turner, Charlotte Bronte, Benjamin West and Walter Scott. Drawing on paintings, plays, cartoons, diaries, almanacs, sermons and songs she also brings to life an array of men and women who have previously been left out of the historical record, from the British army officers to working men and women. Throughout, she analyzes patriotism rather than assuming its existence and shows it to have been a diverse and often rational phenomenon. [via]