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State or Nation (United Kingdom)


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State or Nation (United Kingdom)

  1. 1. French Culture and Civilisation Jason Cates State or Nation: The United KingdomThis paper will discuss the issue of whether the United Kingdom is a “State” or a “Nation”. In thispaper, we will consider a “State” to be a political and geopolitical entity whereas a “Nation” will beconsidered to be a more cultural entity. This issue on terms of the United Kingdom is complicated by the fact that the UnitedKingdom can be considered a “Multinational State”. This is in relation to the fact that even though theUK as a whole is considered a “State”, similar to how the European Union and the USA have member“States”, the UK has four distinct member “Nations”. These “Nations” being those of England,Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whom all of which have their own distinct ideologies,characters and history. The United Kingdom did not exist as an entity or a state until the Treaty of Union in 1707 thatsaw the merger of two separate Kingdoms, those of England and Scotland, who up until this point,consisted of two separate “States”. Due to the UK initially consisted of four separate states, this leadto the development of four distinct cultural identities among the “Home Nations” as they arecommonly called. These four identities that stemmed from before the Treaty of Union (1707) stillexist in todays United Kingdom. However, rather than these identities taking the form of officialstates, they take the form of Nations in the cultural and ideological sense. As a result of this, although I personally see myself as “British” rather than “English” in termsof national identity, most “British” people do not generally refer to themselves as “British”. This isdue to them instead, referring to themselves as either “English”, “Scottish”, “Welsh” or “NorthernIrish”. Also, contrary to popular belief, Great Britain itself is not a “State” in the official sense; it ismerely one Island of many that makes up the United Kingdom. However, Great Britain can also attimes be referred to as a “Nation” when it comes to inter-national stage such as events like theOlympic Games. Great Britain in terms of the island only includes the three “Nations” of England,Scotland and Wales; it however does not include the likes of Northern Ireland or any overseasterritories such as the Falkland Islands. The diagrams below hopefully put this differentiation of the United Kingdom, Great Britainand the “Home Nations” across in a simpler way. 1
  2. 2. French Culture and Civilisation Jason Cates(The Colour Blue, 2011) Therefore, as the United Kingdom as a whole is considered to be the official “State” byorganisations such as the United Nations, in most formal events, the UK is represented as a singleentity. However, this is not the case for sporting events in which the UK is represented in differentforms depending in the event. An example of is would be world cup events in the likes of football andrugby in which each “Home Nation” is presented independently from the others. This is compared toevents such as the Olympic Games in which Great Britain is represented as a single entity withNorthern Ireland which joining the Republic of Ireland which is a completely separate state alltogether. To conclude, it terms of the United Kingdom, the “State” is more prominent than the“Nation”. However, in relation to the likes of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, no“State” in the technical sense exists, but merely distinct “Nation” mentalities. ReferencingThe Colour Blue (2011) A short history of the United Kingdom [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 21th September, 2011]. 2