Linda Colley

Linda Colley is Shelby M.C. Davis Professor of History at Princeton. Her books include Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 and The Gun, the Ship and the Pen.

Lastsummer, in the world we have lost, I took a long Uber ride through Bristol. It was long because my Ethiopian driver was eager to tell me how much his country had changed in recent years, and how much of this was because of China. In the last decade, Chinese companies were responsible for more than 350 construction projects in Ethiopia – airports, railway stations, shopping malls,...

Could it be that Britain’s political stability has become too pronounced? That, by not having to adjust and alter its political system as so many other countries have had to do, the UK has stored up unaddressed problems and unhelpful stagnancies? If so, might the convulsions and divisions over Brexit have some tonic effect? Might this bitterly divisive and presumably long-lasting change turn out to be the painful moderniser that military defeats and invasions have sometimes proved to be for other countries?

Wide-Angled: Global History

Linda Colley, 26 September 2013

What is history for? What do we want it to do? In 1731, an obscure Kentish schoolmaster named Richard Spencer offered some answers. Properly to ascertain his position in geographical space, he reasoned, required not a single map, but access to a global atlas, one that would allow him to ‘see what London and the adjacent parts are in the kingdom; what the kingdom is in Europe, and what...

North and South

Linda Colley, 2 August 2012

The uneven rise of Scottish nationalism is deeply interesting: but not because it is hard to explain, or because it is the only domestic fracture that matters. It has long been accepted that neither the Union of Crowns of 1603, which saw the Scottish King James VI move south to London, nor the Treaty of Union of 1707 served to cancel out Scottish distinctiveness. In educational,...

What is ‘national history’, and what is it for? Who and what should be included in it? And where does it take place? For all that it may appear to offer a uniquely intelligible account of a clearly demarcated political and geographical space, national history is intrinsically problematic. Territorial and maritime boundaries are usually porous. The frontiers of virtually all...

The ‘unconstitution’ has worked only because England’s ruling elites, out of decent self-interest, have never fully exploited its incredible lack of formal constraint on executive power. That convention...

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In the 1680s, Port Royal in Jamaica was a new sort of town. A deep-water port, it lay at the end of a nine-mile sand and gravel spit sheltering Kingston harbour. It was a merchant enclave and a...

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Oak in a Flowerpot: When Britons were slaves

Anthony Pagden, 14 November 2002

Tangier, 1684. A motley group of soldiers scrambles over the ruins of a town, burying beneath the rubble newly minted coins that bear the image of Charles II. This least remembered of the...

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Blame it on the French

John Barrell, 8 October 1992

Linda Colley’s new book is an attempt to discover and analyse the ingredients of British national identity as it was forged in the 18th century – ‘forged’ in the double...

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Liking it and living it

Hugh Tulloch, 14 September 1989

In the Sixties J.H. Plumb euphorically announced the death of the ‘past’ – that comforting mythology conjured up to serve the present and make sense of things as they are...

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Tory Phylogeny

John Brewer, 2 December 1982

Edmund Burke, who spent most of his life either in the wilderness of Parliamentary opposition or as a champion of lost causes, knew how uncharitably we treat political failure. ‘The conduct...

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