Sunday, December 4, 2011

Britannia's Lineage, by a plucky new author we all know

This is a shameless ‘book review.’  Okay, it’s less of a review, and more of some self-promotion for my Master’s thesis, Britannia’s Lineage: The Development of British Identity in the Eighteenth Century.

As the tone of this blog implies (I hope), I’m a historian.  I hold both a BA and MA from the University of Ottawa in History.  My MA thesis was a study of Britain in the eighteenth century, specifically how the British Empire impacted the development of the British national identity.  I always propose my thesis like this: What do you think of when you think of the Brits?  Their love of tea is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  By why is that?  Tea isn’t grown ANYWHERE in England and the archipelago, and it wasn’t grown in the British Empire for the first 100 years or so after it became popular back home.  So why do we associate it with being British?  My thesis sets out to prove that we can’t separate the British people from their Empire when we’re trying to understand why they became what they are.

My thesis relied on A LOT of different types of sources: legislation, 18th century yellow-pages for London (known to contemporaries as merchant directories), art, personal diaries, household accounts and cookbooks, to name a few.  It was asked at my defense how I would respond to people accusing me of cherry-picking my sources, but I think the wide variety of sources proves my thesis – the Empire was everywhere in daily life in Britain in the 18th century.

About a year after I finished my thesis, a publishing company approached me to ask if I would be interested in working with them.  And, of course I was!  The result is a published and for-sale copy of my Master’s thesis.  (Found here, on

What makes me super proud of my work, however, is that it appears that I called a curve in the field shortly before the professional academics started publishing on it.  Part of my thesis is that we need to re-conceptualize the era and how we understand it.  I argued that we need to study the Empire, consumption AND national identity together (as a single concept) to understand Britain in the 18th century.  A recent article in History Magazine by the BBC, and Jeremy Paxton’s new book supports this conceptualization (and no, I’m not saying I inspired it).  These works would have been in progress while I was writing my own work, so it’s nice to see that I had the same train of thought as the grown-up historians.

So, it summation, if you’re looking for a great Christmas-gift idea, I highly recommend you pick up Britannia’s Lineage.  I must say, I’m quite the wordsmith, and it’s a great read!  Also, I’d like the royalty. 

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