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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.