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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Acts of Union and Disunion
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on 21 May 2017
Much has happened since this book was published in 2014, what were events not yet come to pass (Scottish referendum on independence, 2015 general election, Brexit referendum) have, as we know, led to renewed debates on the merits and drawbacks of unions and disunions. It's a testament to the quality of writing in this work that many of the points raised and analysed are still relevant even though the UK is in a different place now from when the author was researching and writing this book.
For anyone who wants to understand the historical background to where we are now in the (dis)United Kingdom I can thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 3 October 2017
Just not. There's very little detail, things meaningful, or a coherence in presentation. Buy Captives instead. It is worth 100 times this typical bookstand, quick read, mention a few things, four: after dinner/pub/holiday discussion with family/friends and strangers.
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on 15 September 2014
Especially given the fact this has been marketed as worth reading in light of the Scottish independence referendum, I found this disappointing. It is a collection of short essays - really very short - adapted from a radio programme about the forces that have pulled the United Kingdom either together or apart over the centuries. However, none of the essays develop their points in sufficient detail to be particularly interesting. There is no intellectual meat of note here, and you'll have to go to Colley's other books for that. I particularly did not feel that I came away from it more enlightened about events in Scotland than I went in.
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on 27 January 2014
The subtitle of this book is "What has held the UK together-...?".
A question which, after reading the book, you might well ask. Ms Colley offers a cogent and fluent explanation why Britain has lost an empire, and most of Ireland in the early 20th century and is in imminent danger of losing Scotland, if not, eventually, Wales and, who knows, parts of the English provinces, given time. She certainly seems to know her subject inside out. My only regret is that much more length was not devoted to the intensifying disconnect between London and the rest of England, let alone the other countries that make up the UK. A recent reviewer in a national newspaper, but not on this forum, said that the book had opened her eyes to the ways in which Westminster government policies have actively discriminated against the North (and, I'd add, the Midlands). I was already well aware of that but actually found surprisingly little of it in the book, especially considering that the author grew up in the North herself.
In all a fascinating read which may well make you wonder how the UK has lasted so long in anything like its present form.

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on 26 January 2014
This short book is based on a series of 15 short talks given on BBC Radio in January 2014. The talks are available on BBC i-player for at least a year and are worth listening to, if only to enjoy Professor Colley's distinctive clarity of presentation. The book is useful for adding illustrations and a helpful set of recommendations for further reading. Although it addresses current concerns of British national identity, it is strengthened by the author's historical expertise, especially in the late-eighteenth century- the chapter on America, for instance, reminds one of the closeness of the two countries in the eighteenth century and the fact that the loss of the 13 colonies was the first break-up of the Union. The fact that we survived that disunion, and the loss of most of Ireland in the 1920s, may suggest that we could survive a vote for Scottish Independence. However, Colley suggests that we don't really need to go through further traumas of disunion if only the Government would allow for constitutional modernisation and a federal state with a Parliament for England. Professor Colley may be one of the experts that the GOvernment would and should actually listen to.
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on 1 February 2014
Linda Colley has written a concise and very readable analysis of how the United Kingdom became united - and where the structural faults in that political union may be found. She writes with subtlety and authority about the UK's formative history - which is admirable, given the highly compressed nature of much of her analysis. But, when she suggests some of the ways in which the British State might develop in future, she seems to lose some of her edge, and the various scenarios that she describes are rather bland and unconvincing.
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on 8 May 2014
Based on a series of talks, commissioned by BBC Radio 4, Colley's book about the British Isles takes a timely look at the stresses and strains of what we now call the United Kingdom. Full of interesting asides, providing answers to such unusual questions as why the heir to the throne is traditionally called "The Prince of Wales", or when the moniker "UK" caught on, this is an enjoyable and thought-provoking book bringing history very much to the fore as Scotland's referendum on independence approaches. Whilst I am sure that there are weightier (in all senses of the word) books out there about the future and politics of the United Kingdom, one could do a lot worse than to start with "Acts of Union and Disunion" with its broad historical view. A really interesting little book.
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on 2 March 2014
It was a joy to read: concise, dealing with current issues of disunion from the historical perspective. very clear, communicative, global perspective. I have learnt a lot
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on 21 February 2015
first came across Linda Colley as a guest speaker on a Magna Carta MOOC and was impressed by her breadth (intellectual) and vitality; having lived outside of the UK for the last 12 years had missed her BBC eminence... this is proving a great introduction to her thinking and represents an excellent underpin to any studies of matters constitutional...
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on 28 April 2014
Linda Colley is always well worth reading. Her decision to more-or less stick to the format of her broadcast series, has whetted the appetite more than satified the desire to read what might be her fully developed ideas on each topic. Might one expect an expanded version sometime?
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