The Four Nations


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A History of the United Kingdom

Frank Welsh

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Even by comparison to the United States, the United Kingdom has had a brief and fractious history. Its existence as an undivided entity lasted only for a disputatious 125 years, and its future remains precarious.

In The Four Nations, Frank Welsh offers a lively narrative history of the four component parts of the British Isles—England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Moving from the Roman period, which first defined many of the current internal boundaries, through the present day, Welsh describes the history of each nation, their interactions, and the impacts of crises ranging from the Norman Invasion to the Protestant Reformation to the two world wars of the twentieth century. Along the way, Welsh questions many cherished illusions and poses some awkward questions: To what extent were Scotland, Ireland, and Wales victims of predatory English aggression? How serious is the frequently invoked specter of national fragmentation?

Filled with illuminating vignettes and provocative insights, The Four Nations is an accessible and comprehensive introduction to the troubled histories of the British Isles.

Frank Welsh is the author of nine previous books, including A Borrowed Place: The History of Hong Kong and A History of South Africa.

The Four Nations is a hugely enjoyable read, full of vigor and liveliness as well as provocative commentary. It informs and instructs in an accessible way that none of its rivals can match.”—John Morrill, Cambridge University

“A compelling and sometimes controversial account of how four kingdoms--England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—became one. . . . [Welsh] constantly challenges received opinion and urban myths.”—Alan Taylor, Glasgow Herald

"[A] compelling and sometimes controversial account of how four kingdoms--England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—became one. . . . Span[s] more than 2000 years . . . with clarity and authority. The terrain covered is similar to that by Norman Davies in The Isles, but in tone, emphasis, organisation of material and interpretation the two books differ markedly. Welsh is not a phrase-maker in the Davies mould but he constantly challenges received opinion and urban myths."—Alan Taylor, Glasgow Herald

“An inside knowledge of how business and administration works, and a keen sense of the realities of bargaining and marketing that underpinned successful policies in the twentieth century. . . . A big, exciting, opinionated book. . . . The book does . . . handle the history of Wales with insight, sympathy and almost complete accuracy. . . . It shows, very well, why it was that Ireland could not be assimilated into a United Kingdom, why Scotland and Wales could, and what the present strains and strengths of that kingdom are.”—Ronald Hutton, Times Literary Supplement

"Welsh has done a commendable job of providing a concise history of ’the four nations’ from the Roman occupation to membership in the European Union. . . . Readable and colorful. Recommended. General collections; graduate students and faculty."—Choice
ISBN: 9780300093742
Publication Date: December 19, 2003
536 pages, 5 7/8 x 9
42 b/w illus. + maps