The Home Office has been struggling for some time to devise a model of “Britishness” to which immigrants seeking British citizenship should aim. Many of its efforts lean heavily on history, and on teaching prospective citizens about the great events and people of Britain’s past. Usually this is done in order to foster admiration for our past achievements. The latest manifestation of this is the Home Office’s 180-page syllabus on Britishness, on which prospective citizens will be tested before being allowed to stay. Much of this looks pretty good to me: most of the “values and principles of the UK”, for example, explained in a sample chapter online. I particularly like the early passage referring to Britain’s record of “welcoming new migrants who will add to the diversity and dynamism of our national life”. It’s the historical chapter I’m sceptical of – both its title, which we are told is A Long and Illustrious History, and also some of its content, as it has been outlined in the press.
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