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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Identity and Autonomy: Minority Nationalism in the United Kingdom

Andrew Harvey.

The paper analyses minority nationalism in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It presents an historically and theoretically informed comparative analysis to identify and explain the different forms of nationalism in each, arguing that greater knowledge and appreciation of this diversity is important for several reasons. A comparative approach enables greater understanding of the complexity of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and provides greater insight into the nature of nationalism as a political force. By tracking forms of minority nationalism visible in three regions of the United Kingdom over time, the paper highlights a number of similarities among the development of each, yet also important points of difference.

Minority nationalists in each region have faced the same dominant host state, yet historically have responded very differently in their quest for recognition of national identity. This reveals both the flexibility and range of minority nationalist approaches, and the need for comparative analysis to move beyond any notion of a Celtic Fringe. It further underlines that the United Kingdom needs to be seen as a union rather than a unitary state, and that British identity has always coexisted with other forms of regional and national identity. Moreover, the extent of diversity evidences that nationalist movements must be viewed in context, and are almost always negotiated and negotiable


Andrew Harvey  (Australia)
Executive Officer

Australian Council of Deans of Education

Dr Andrew Harvey is Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Deans of Education. His PhD was on minority nationalism in the United Kingdom, and his interests extend to social theory, British history and comparative international education perspectives.

  • Nationalism
  • Identity
  • Autonomy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)