Welcome to the Hub for the Study of British Identities! We’re a new research network devoted to all things British, based at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. You can read more about us, our related MLitt British Studies and our journal here.
We aim to bring together academics, students, heritage professionals and the public in thinking about what British identities are and how they have changed over time. Our network is both virtual and face-to-face, and this blog will be a way to find out more about our future events and to connect with people who are interested in all aspects of Britishness, from the Roman era right up to the present day.
In creating the Hub for the Study of British Identities (HSBI), we’re hoping to build on some exciting partnerships that we’ve recently developed with heritage bodies and local communities in the Highlands and Islands. We work closely with High Life Highland, the body responsible for the region’s culture and leisure services, including Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and the Highland Folk Museum. Recently, members of HSBI worked with the local community in Kingussie to put on a heritage festival, Macpherson’s Ossianic Legacy, which combined academic papers with public workshops and field trips. HSBI’s events will build on these public collaborations in the conferences and workshops that we’re planning to hold in the next couple of years – watch this space!
Thinking about British identities from the far north of Scotland is complex and challenging. We’re (geographically) removed from the centres of British (and Scottish) political power, but the region has been key to debate about Britishness for centuries. Looking at British identities from this perspective is an important reminder about the huge variety of ways in which people think and feel about being (or not being) British. The Highlands and Islands are a region where Britishness has been important, almost definitional. Soon, this blog will feature some early thoughts on a new HSBI research project on ‘Highland Homecomings’, looking at how figures from the region travelled the world and made their name in the British Empire. Peter Fraser (Prime Minister of New Zealand 1940-1949) and John Diefenbaker (Prime Minister of Canada 1957-1963) are just two examples: both returned to their Highland roots during their hugely successful political careers and were feted by their old communities.
Equally, the status of Britishness has been long contested in this region. Just last month, members of HSBI went on a field trip out west, stopping off at the Glenfinnan monument to the 1745 Jacobite Rising, where we contemplated the often strained and violent relationship between (and within) the region and the British state.
And, of course, issues of British identity remain at the centre of contemporary politics following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
It’s in this context, then, of ongoing constitutional debate about Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom in which we launch the Hub for the Study of British Identities. We look forward to much lively discussion in our research network and we welcome contributions from all interested in any aspect of Britishness.
And if you’d like to blog for us, please get in touch!
The Hub email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Jim MacPherson, UHI Centre for History