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The Four Nations


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About the Author

Frank Welsh was born in Washington, County Durham, and educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He has had a varied career in international business and banking, including service on the boards of nationalised industries and as a member of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service. His books include The Profit of the State, Uneasy City, Building the Trireme, A History of Hong Kong and A History of South Africa. He lives in France and England.


Welsh (A Borrowed Place: The History of Hong Kong) writes of the creation, then the ongoing breakup, of the United Kingdom into its component nations of England, Scotland, and Wales, with Ulster predicted to join a secular united Ireland. Did the others leave, or did England offload them like too much baggage? Within the political context of the European Union, which has erased borders more substantial than those within the United Kingdom, Welsh argues that England never forced union on Wales and Scotland and that Scotland's and Wales's growing autonomy are not based on popular movements. Rather, England is kicking Scotland and Wales out of Westminster, however much it might appear that they choose to leave; devolution, rather than nationalism, is responsible for the breakup. No matter how much one analyzes each by-election in Wales and Scotland, the author's own text provides both sides of the argument with ammunition. In trying to dismiss the growth of Scottish and Welsh nationalism as just another tactic of the political parties, methinks Welsh doth protest too much. Worth a read and the debates it will spark, this is recommended for academic libraries, and public libraries may want to consider.-Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, North Billerica, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Welsh (A History of South Africa, etc.) examines over 2,000 years of the history of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, focusing on how these nations interacted to shape one another's history. Unsurprisingly, England is the major player here. The history of Scotland and Ireland is largely a matter of their attempts to remain free of, and then accommodate to, a hegemonic England. Welsh begins with the Roman conquest of Britannia and establishment of the modern-day borders of England, Scotland and Wales. He concludes in the year 2001, considering whether "the end of the United Kingdom" is at hand (to those who fear it, he replies that "the unitary state had been disintegrating for over a century"). After detailing the construction of the U.K., Welsh devotes most of the latter part of the book to events in Ireland-from the failed Rising of 1798 to the Great Irish Famine, Gladstone and the failure of Home Rule, the partition of Ireland, sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland and the present-day peace process. By comparison, Welsh's treatment of Scotland and Wales is minimal. Welsh has chosen breadth of coverage over depth. We get only a few pages, for instance, on the 1688 Glorious Revolution-one of the seminal events in British history-and surprisingly little on WWII. Nor is there much about the development of the British Empire. Welsh's narrative is too often a dry recitation of well-known dates and names, rarely delving below the surface or offering fresh insight. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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