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Episode 1

58 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 10 January 2014

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 tonight's Omnibus Edition, Professor Colley explores Britain not as a small group but as a collection of thousands of islands; surrounded by seas that offer a defence - and a point of access... She looks at the British notion of liberty, as championed from Magna Carta onwards, and at the place of monarchy within the history of these islands:

"One of the ways in which political peoples have often managed to cohere - at least for a time - is through evolving and believing stories about themselves. So what have been the stories of identity, union, and belonging that varieties of Britons have selected to tell about themselves?"

Producer: Simon Elmes.


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