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Maksym W. Kyrchanoff. "Defunct politics of memory in England and Scotland: British-Eastern..."

Maksym W. Kyrchanoff. "Defunct politics of memory in England and Scotland: British-Eastern European parallels and deferred historical politics"

Keywords: England, Scotland, history, historical politics, politics of memory, nationalism

The author analyses the problems of the un-development of historical politics and politics of memory in their classical forms in the UK. It is assumed that historiographies in England and Scotland are politicised, but degrees of their ideologisation are incomparable with the same characteristics and peculiarities of the historiographies in the nationalizing states of Eastern Europe. The author presumes that the historiographical English-Scottish contradictions are comparable with Ukrainian-Russian debates. English and Scottish intellectuals have some mutual historical claims and seek to challenge the rights of their opponents to write, imagine, invent and construct history independently. English historiography, as Russian nationalist historiography of Ukraine, imagines Scotland as part of the British political space and denies the independent status of the Scottish language. Scottish historiography, as the Ukrainian one, tends to imagine the history of Scotland as an independent historical and political tradition, emphasising the linguistic and ethnic differences between the Scots and the English. Despite a significant number of mutual claims, national historiographies in the UK did not transform into historical politics. The author states that these transformations and aggravations of mutual historical claims are possible if the processes of regionalisation in the UK and the rise of internal contradictions will allow Scottish nationalists to revise the status of Scotland radically. This scenario provides the emergence of several nationalising states, where political elites will begin to manipulate history and practice various forms of historical politics, which is actively used by Eastern European countries, where historical manipulations and speculations became the norm.

Norman saw on English oak.

On English neck a Norman yoke;

Norman spoon to English dish,

And England ruled as Normans wish

Sir Walter Scott

Nationalisms, histories, memories. Nationalism always had the complex and contradictory relationships with history. Several reasons became grounds for the situation when supporters of political and ethnic nationalisms, on the one hand, and representatives of academic historiographic communities, on the other hand, cannot reach a compromise. Professional historians perceive the texts of active and practising nationalists in the too sceptical way and when they use them, they imagine them as sources for academic studies. Nationalist intellectuals often reproach academic historians in the absence of patriotism. Nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries became an important factor that influenced significantly the development of nations, endowed and provided them with national histories and political traditions. Europeans of the 19th and 20th centuries could not understand the role that nationalism played in the formation of their historical memories and collective political ideas about the past.

The triumph of post-modern approaches in historiography that perceive history as imagined and invented intellectual, social and cultural constructs and traditions stripped the history of its positivistic sacredness and semi-religious status in developments and existence of nations. The disintegration of socialist multi-national and non-democratic states inspired several waves of nationalizations and ideologization of historical and political memories in dynamically nationalizing states that painfully shaped new institutions and collective ideas of their past because political and intellectual elites tried to reconcile the mutually exclusive myths of the nation, class and liberal values.

...not only an Eastern European phenomenon... Traditionally, Russian historiography, when historians begin to write about the same processes, prefers to analyse their Eastern European contexts. Of course, Ukraine or Poland are among the good and even the best candidates for the academic analysis of those intellectual practices and strategies that became effective mechanisms of historical politics. The quantitative dominance of Eastern and Central European plots in the modern historiography of historical politics and the transformations of national memories became an unpleasant consequence of the fact that intellectuals in their studies preferred to pay tribute to the political and ideological conjunctures of the states they live in and communities they belong to.

The boundaries and limits of the world, where intellectuals actively use the instrumentalist purposes of historiography, do not end on the Western Polish-German border. The history of the European West provides historians of nationalism with numerous examples when nationalist-minded intellectuals initiated the nationalisation and ideologisation of history or used it in their attempts to achieve political goals. The national histories of countries that form the European Union are not numbers and sets of the organised, ordered and catalogued collections of consciously selected historical facts that testify the triumph of the values ​​of liberal democracy, the rights and freedoms of a citizen. The history of Western countries provides a historian of nationalism with a significant number of situations when nationalists used history actively to legitimise oppression and suppression of the peripheral national regions.

Politics of memory: British case. The political history of Britain can successfully illustrate the processes of national oppression and nationalist debates between intellectuals who belonged to different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Contradictions between Irish and British nationalists are among the well-studied problems in English and international historiography. Discussions between Scottish and English nationalists are less popular in historiography than Irish-British debates, despite the fact that they actualise the general trends and forms of historical politics and manipulations with historical memory that nationalists in Central and Eastern Europe used so successfully in their attempts to invent and promote historical and political myths.

British and Eastern European parallels of historical politics. Historians of nationalism in Eastern Europe well know ideological disputes and contradictions between Russian and Ukrainian nationalists because the political mythology and ideology of these nationalisms are well studied in historiography. It is known that Russian nationalists never recognized Ukrainians as a separate nation, denied the independent status of Ukrainian language, integrated Ukrainian historical events into the Russian historiographic canon, perceived Ukrainian attempts to create an independent statehood as separatism. This set of myths continues to dominate in Russian nationalist historiography, but the situation is not unique. The history of the Anglo-Scottish controversies is full of examples of discussions which are the same from ideological viewpoint: English nationalists were very sceptical in the attempts of the Scottish elite to imagine the Scots as a separate nation with their own language that stimulated British ridicules. Scottish aspirations to restore parliament and create an independent state are imagined as politically dangerous desires to destroy the united and single political body of British nation-state. These mutually exclusive political concepts and historiographical approaches formed the foundations of historical politics in the United Kingdom in contexts of English attempts to imagine the Scottishness as a local version and a particular case of the development of Englishness. The British model of politics of memory emerged and developed as an attempt to deny the aspirations of the Scottish nationalists to resist English ideological dominance. British historical memory imagines and invents Scotland in the contexts of attempts to integrate it forcibly into English historiographical and political canons.

Politics of memory as politics of history: England vs Scotland. Several factors determined the main features and directions of mutually exclusive historical policies in Scotland and England in the contexts of imagination and the invention of history in various national historiographies. The politics of memory in England and Scotland differ little from the same processes in continental Europe. Moreover, the tactics strategies of nationalists, their approaches to the politically motivated use of the past, have much in common with actions of the formulators of historical politics in Central and Eastern Europe. The politics of memory in England and Scotland was originally conflictious because local intellectuals developed mutually exclusive versions of history. English historical narratives about Scotland has much in common with Russian narratives about Ukraine. English nationalists are reluctant to admit that in the past Scotland was independent, but extremely actively like to remember that the savage Scots were a source of constant problems and periodically attacked the border regions of civilized England.

British nationalists and some English linguists deny the existence of the Scottish language and perceive it as a dialect of English. British nationalism is not overflowing with enthusiasm when Scottish nationalists begin to actively discuss prospects for secession from the UK. These problems are important for historical politics, but they represent only particular cases of historical exercises of English and Scottish nationalists. The problems of the division of British history into English and Scottish are very important in the contexts of simultaneous coexistence of various historical and political memories. The loss of state and political independence with its institutions is a very painful and unpleasant subject for Scottish nationalists, but the same theme is extremely important for British nationalists because it actualizes the experience of a single political body of the imperial nation. Therefore, attempts to divide the political history of the state and reinforce it with new dividing lines in the context of the history of language and culture are extremely important for Scottish nationalists and extremely unpleasant for their English colleagues.

To divide history: separatism as the basis of the politics of memory in Scotland. If the history of Scottish statehood was fixed in the treaties of the kings of Scotland and England, the historical status of the Scottish language is more complicated, despite the fact that Scotland has developed traditions of national literature. Scottish nationalists and linguists seek to prove that the Scots and English never were a single people and started to live in common state accidentally. The Scottish politics of memory in this context is rooted in the desire to divide the historical processes between Scotland and England radically and decisively. Scottish nationalists do not limit themselves to formal academic rules and offer a mythological national history written and imagined in an ethnocentric coordinates system. Intellectual activities and efforts of Scottish nationalists led to the formation of the Scottish historical myth. The main points of this romantic national historiographical myth are following: Scottish and English nationalists imagine their nations as groups of German origin and therefore they are far from the desire to proclaim themselves as autochthonous ethnic communities. Intellectuals of Scotland and England were able to avoid the temptations of the myth of ethnic autochthonism, although their Russian and Ukrainian colleagues could not do this, and this factor stimulates dubious debates about primogeniture in national Eastern and Central European historiographies. Scottish and English nationalists have a common idea that their ancestors reached the British Isles in the 5th century and settled gradually significant areas of the region except for those periphery edges that remained under the control of the Celtic groups.

1066 as the imagining border: universalism and regional special cases of historical development. The inhabitants of the British Isles of German Anglo-Saxon origin spoke in various close and related dialects, and this situation persisted until the middle of the 11th century when William the Conqueror captured England. The Norman conquest of England, as the Scottish nationalists insist, became a watershed in the history of the region because it provoked radical changes in England that did not affect Scotland. British historians also wrote a lot about political transformations after 1066 and did not forget to mention the dangerous pernicious Scots who attacked British territories [Sadler, 2006; MacDonald Fraser, 2015; Campbell Paterson, 1997; Phillips, 1999] and disputed the superiority of English monarchs. Scottish nationalists cultivated actively a narrative about the independent historical and cultural developments of Scotland and insisted that the Scots [Aitken, 1971; Aitken, 1985; Aitken, Macafee, 2002; Aitken, 1979; Eagle, 2016] and English languages ​​had a common ancestor, but developed separately [Colin Wilson, 2014; The Essential Scots Dictionary… 2005; The Concise Scots Dictionary; Scots Thesaurus, 2001; Kay, 2006].

Scottish nationalists [Harvie, 2004; Devine, 2001; Hanham, 1969; Pittock, 2001; Davidson, 2000; Mitchell, 2014] insist that Anglo-Saxon language was the ancestor of Early Middle English which divided into Northern and Southern dialects. The first one became an ancestral language of modern Scots, and the second one developed into modern standard English. English nationalists deny the independent language status of the Scots [Scobbie, Gordeeva, Matthews, 2007; Wright, 2000; Gorlach, 1997; Abercrombie, 1979] and perceive the numerous monuments of Scottish literature [Donaldson, 1989; Jones, 1995; Andrews, 2004; Corbett, 1997; McCordick, 1996] negligently as texts written in illiterate and incorrect English. If the Scottish nationalists in their versions of historical politics consistently insist on the differences between English and Scottish histories, the British nationalists, on the contrary, believe that the Scottish history was only a special case of the English historical process in the political, state and linguistic contexts. These historiographical discussions and confrontations between English and Scottish versions of historical politics actualise alternative levels of historical memory in England.

Anglicise it: 1066 and the awakening of ethnicity in English historical politics. Scottish intellectuals in their polemics with British opponents actively use the medieval history of England when it was Anglo-Saxon in its desires to prove that the English and the Scots developed differently. The author does not claim that only and exclusively Scottish intellectual stimuli prompted the interests of English nationalists to early history before the Norman conquest. Scottish manipulations of the history of England before the 11th century demonstrated to English nationalists the considerable mobilization potential of Medievalism and possibilities to re-write ethnic and linguistic histories for the strengthening of modern national identities.

If the Scottish nationalists are actively using history before the 11th century to prove that England and Scotland developed differently and the Norman conquest was the factor that actualized the regional political, social and linguistic differences of England and Scotland, then English ethnic nationalists also use 1066, but they have completely different goals than the Scottish intellectuals. Scottish and English nationalists perceive and imagine 1066 differently. They certainly regret the death of the old Anglo-Saxon England, which had more in common with Scotland than the England that William the Conqueror and his political heirs developed. The conquest of 1066 is important for the Scottish nationalists because it did not affect Scotland, but made England another. 1066 is important for English nationalists because it radically changed and actually destroyed the old Anglo-Saxon England, which they prefer to idealize. Therefore, the Scottish nationalistic myth in British historical politics coexists with the Anglo-Saxon myth of English nationalists.

Academic historiography as a stronghold of tradition, or history without politics... How long? The nationalist debate about 1066 has not become a full-blooded historical policy yet. Discussions about 1066 are still intellectual disputes and various historiographical approaches that belong to academic discourse. Several generations of English intellectuals and historians served, promoted and supported the patriotic ethnocentric principle in history writing of Anglo-Saxon England. These historians formed a nationalistic English discourse. Anglo-Saxon studies are extremely diverse and belong to this discourse partly. The specialized academic journals and university programs reproduce the academic versions of this myth. Academic Anglo-Saxon studies [Hall, 2009; Brown, 2010; Snook, 2015; Coatsworth, Pinder, 2002; Martin, 2015; Thompson, 2012; Hooke, 2013; Clarke, 2012; Karkov, 2004] imagine and invent Anglo-Saxon England in various dimensions, including political, cultural, intellectual, social and religious histories. Despite the heterogeneous and academic nature of university historiography, Anglo-Saxon studies stimulate interest in England until 1066, which the nationalists actively use, but historiographic discussions, in general, continue to develop as constituent elements of academic historiography.

Trends and tendencies of mutation to historical politics are extremely insignificant. This situation is a consequence of the fact that academic historiography in England try to reproduce certain forms of knowledge inertially because the degree of its politicization and ideologization remains insignificant in comparison with the same indicators of Central and Eastern European historiographies which try to produce and reproduce narratives about early ethnic and state histories. Central and Eastern European historiographies are burdened by myths of conquests that changed the main vectors and trajectories of the country’s development radically. Therefore, ideologically, politically and nationally marked niche in the division of intellectual labour, academic historiography refused to occupy, was captured by nationalists cultivating ethnocentric versions of the Anglo-Saxon myth.

History is in the hands of ethnic entrepreneurs. Supporters of ethnic English nationalism who cultivate Englishness as an alternative to Britishness, on the one hand, idealize Anglo-Saxon England and, on the other, extremely negatively imagine 1066 and its consequences. Theorists and ideologists of English ethnic nationalism insist that Anglo-Saxon England developed independently politically, socially, economically and religiously. William the Conqueror, as the nationalists claim, destroyed the foundations of English national statehood because he killed the last true English king, destroyed most of the representatives of the English feudal aristocracy abolished the English church, in fact, because natives of Normandy began to receive church offices. These innovations and changes annoy the English nationalists, but they are much more emotional when they evaluate the role of the Norman conquest in the history of the English language. On the one hand, English nationalists are very unpleasant and painful about the fact that aggression and the conquest of 1066 changed significantly the status and role of the English language, deprived it of state significance and administrative functions, turned it into a language of the peasantry.

Therefore, 1066 in the nationalistic imagination of English intellectuals became a constant reason for various reflections about how English could develop without negative French influence. The intellectual exercises of English nationalists did not become a classical politics of memory in the Central or Eastern European senses and understandings. English nationalists prefer to use linguistic policy [Cser, 2009] for the imagination of the idealized Anglo-Saxon England. It is noteworthy that the nationalists prefer to describe this England in that English language, how it could develop without Norman influence. Therefore, the nationalists suggest use several nationally and ideologically marked and motivated phrases, including “the Anglo-Saxon Eldom” instead of “the Anglo-Saxon Age”, “if England had stayed unedited in 1066” instead of “if England had stayed unconquered in 1066”, “Forthspell for the Eftnewing of English” instead of “Declaration for the Restoration of English”, “the English Witanmoot” instead of “the English Parliament”, “a thedish insetness” instead of “a national institution”, “Selfdom for England!” instead of “Independence for England!”, “a thede’s needs” instead of “a nation's needs” etc [Cowley, 2009; Cowley, 2011; Cowley, 1999]. On the other hand, nationalists believe that the Norman conquest changed significantly the vectors and trajectories of the development of the English language. This linguistic trauma and political resentment stimulate the linguistic purism [Anderson, 1989] of the English nationalists and their attempts to restore words that English lost after 1066. These intellectual practices and strategies have not reached the level of institutionalization in the form of historical politics like it happened in Central and Eastern Europe.

Preliminary conclusions. The historical imagination in England and Scotland continues to develop as a predominantly intellectual polemic between representatives of various national historiographies. Discussions between Scottish and English nationalists have much in common with classical historiographic disputes, when historiography became the object of political ideology but has not mutated yet into the form of control over the past, imaginations and inventions of national history. The author presumes that several reasons and factors stimulate the preservation of this historiographic situation in England and Scotland. National historiographies in these regions develop and exist as predominantly academic, the norms of academic ethics and historiographical tradition continue to determine the main vectors and trajectories of the development of historical studies.

History as a science and nationalism as a form of political activity in England and Scotland develops separately and parallelly, but this informal compromise between academic communities and nationalist political groups has temporary character. The author presumes that English and Scottish historiographies can lose their exclusively academic character because history and collective representations of the historical past can become factors of political struggle and ideological confrontation between English and Scottish nationalists. Various internal and external factors, including political changes in Europe, the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union, the intensification of regional nationalisms in England, Scotland and Wales, the revival and the incitement of alternative forms of historical and political memories can stimulate and inspire the internal transformations of English and Scottish historiographies, inspiring their politicization, ideologization and transformation of the past and history into objects of political struggle and ideological confrontations.

The hypothetical crisis and the decentralization of Britain, the restoration of the state and political independences of Scotland and Wales will revive the old historical contradictions and turn history into a factor of political confrontation in contexts of defending Scottish and Welsh rights to freedom and independence or control over the territories in English historical memory. The probable disintegration of Great Britain resuscitates old mutual grievances, historical traumas and collective political complexes. This scenario actualizes parallels with the development of dynamically nationalizing memories of Eastern Europe. English and Scottish historians like their Ukrainian and Russian counterparts will eagerly enumerate reciprocal historical claims, including wars, occupations, deprivations of political and state independences. The nationalization and politicization of historical memories in Scotland and Wales can be an incentive for the transformation of historiographies, erosion of academic orthodoxies and their further mutation into one of the factors which will determine strategies of England and Scotland as new actors of internationalising politics of memory.


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Дефектная политика памяти в Англии и Шотландии: британо-восточноевропейские параллели и отложенная историческая политика

М.В. Кирчанов – д-р ист. н., доцент Кафедры регионоведения и экономики зарубежных стран Факультета международных отношений Воронежского государственного университета

Ключевые слова: Англия, Шотландия, история, историческая политика, политика памяти, национализм

Автор анализирует проблемы отсутствия исторической политики и политики памяти в их классических формах в Великобритании. Предполагается, что историография в Англии и Шотландии политизирована, но степень их идеологизации несравнима с аналогичными характеристиками и особенностями историографий национализирующихся государств Восточной Европы. Автор полагает, что историографические англо-шотландские противоречия сравнимы с аналогичными украино-российскими противоречиями. Английские и шотландские интеллектуалы имеют набор взаимных исторических претензий и стремятся оспорить права своих оппонентов самостоятельно писать, воображать, изобретать и конструировать историю. Английская историография, как российская националистическая историография Украины, воображает Шотландию как часть британского политического пространства и отрицает независимый статус шотландского языка. Шотландская историография, как украинская, склонна воображать историю Шотландии как независимую историческую и политическую традицию, подчеркивая языковые и этнические изначальные особенности, и различия шотландцев и англичан. Несмотря на значительное число взаимных претензий национальные историографии в Великобритании не трансформировались в историческую политику. Автор полагает, что эти трансформации и обострение взаимных исторических претензий возможны, если процессы регионализации в Великобритании и рост внутренних противоречий позволят шотландским националистам радикально пересмотреть статус Шотландии. Этот сценарий предусматривает появление нескольких национализирующихся государств, где политические элиты начнут активно манипулировать историей и практиковать различные формы исторической политики, что активно делают восточно-европейские страны, где исторические манипуляции и спекуляции стали нормой.


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