“the better to explain the gathering disunities of the current kingdom”

The English Independent carries a review of a what looks like a fascinating political history, which traces the outline of West Britain, “a coastal littoral from Glasgow and Carlisle, via Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool, to Holyhead, Swansea and Cardiff, whose autonomy – both geographic and civilisational – is insufficiently recognised.”

In its heyday, from 1860 to 1930, this was a littoral whose vigour and sophistication generated great writers, humming trade routes, radical political movements, and world-changing industrial innovations. But this floating commonwealth was not, or not easily, directable from the metropolitan “core” of London and the Home Counties. One of Harvie’s intriguing arguments is that the capital’s semi-landed political elites used the enterprising prole-and-bourgeois energies of West Britain for war and profit, but was surprised when a variety of nationalisms (Welsh, Scottish and of course Irish) emerged from those areas – nationalisms which questioned, until this day, the assumed benefits of Union and Empire.

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