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On September 18th this year, the voters of Scotland will decide in a referendum whether they want their nation henceforth to be independent of the United Kingdom, or remain within the union that has bound Britain together since the Act of Union of 1707.

In "Acts of Union and Disunion", Linda Colley, Professor of History at the University of Princeton, examines the forces that bind together the diverse peoples, customs and loyalties of the United Kingdom. And the often equally powerful movements that from time to time across the centuries threaten to pull Britain apart.

In the first of fifteen programmes, Colley offers us - literally - an overview, as she begins her journey with the story of the 18th century Scottish writer and controversialist James Tytler, the first person to look down from a hot air balloon on what Shakespeare had earlier called 'this scepter'd isle'.

In these refreshingly original talks, Linda Colley sets out to counter a number of well-established conventional views of Britain's history and offer a personal take on the united - and divided - history of our nation: "Although Britain is sometimes viewed as an old and stable country, these in fact are very selective visions. Historically speaking, Great Britain - and still more the United Kingdom - are in some respects recent and synthetic constructs that have often been contested and in flux in the past, just as they continue to be contested and in flux now...."

Producer: Simon Elmes.

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15 minutes

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Mon 6 Jan 2014 13:45