The Dream of Greater Britain

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Dane Kennedy Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs Emeritus, George Washington University, USA

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This article examines the enduring influence of Charles Dilke's Greater Britain (1868), which persists today in the ambitions of Brexit's proponents. Dilke characterized Britain as the center of a world system bound together by a common identity. Yet his explanation of that identity was riddled with inconsistencies. While he cast it mainly in racial terms, he also proposed cultural and linguistic criteria. These inconsistencies would complicate the efforts to define and delineate the reach of Greater Britain by those who followed in Dilke's footsteps. This includes the leading Brexiteers who have advanced Greater Britain's modern iteration, the Anglosphere, as an alternative to EU membership.

Contributor Notes

Dane Kennedy is Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs Emeritus at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He teaches British, British imperial, and world history and is the author of seven books on aspects of the British imperial world, including The Imperial History Wars (2018), Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction (2016), and The Last Blank Spaces (2013). Email:

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