A Useful History of Britain: The Politics of Getting Things Done

ISBN : 9780198848301

Michael Braddick
256 ページ
138 x 216 mm

The United Kingdom has not yet lasted as long as the Kingdom of Wessex, and may not do so. Conventional histories of Britain, though, tell the story of the origins of the UK as if that was the natural endpoint of political development on the island. This book sets out to do something else-to ask how people in the past used political power to get things done. Offering a concise thematic overview, it shows how history can speak directly to current political debates. Many people feel that national governments are irrelevant to their lives and that the problems we now face are beyond our control-climate change, disease and global economic regulation for example. But much of this is not new. The ideas and challenges driving political life have always affected larger parts of the globe: British experience has always been part of a shared and parallel global history, often directly linked by institutions reaching well beyond the island. On the other hand, throughout these 6000 years people have acted at smaller scales too. What we really have in common with previous inhabitants of this island is this desire to use political power to get things done, not a shared destiny culminating in government based in Westminster. This book sets out to learn more broadly from their experience, giving us a much fuller perspective on where we are now. Just as importantly, it gives us more resources for thinking about what we might do next.


Power over our world, power over each other
Introduction The history of political life on Britain
1 Political life: collective and differential power
What needs to be done and what can be achieved
2 Mobilising ideas
3 Changing material conditions
4 Organizational capacity
Patterns in the uses of political power
5 Political inclusion: who gets to make things happen?
6 Geographies of political power and identity: which groups take action for what purposes?
7 Change over time: phases in the history of political life
Conclusion Globalizing Britain's past: parallel and shared histories
Further reading


Michael Braddick is Professor of History at the University of Sheffield, and has held academic positions and visiting Fellowships in the USA, Australia, France, and Germany. He has written extensively on the social, economic and political life of early modern England, Britain and the Atlantic, particularly in relation to state formation, popular politics and the English revolution. His most recent book is The Common Freedom of the People: John Lilburne and the English Revolution.