European Integration and the End of an Imperial Consciousness in Britain


  • I would like to acknowledge the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex for their permission to use MOA material in this article.


This article examines the impact of European integration between 1961 and 1975 on national and imperial consciousness in Britain. It suggests that the end of imperial sentiment that was brought about by greater involvement in Europe did not produce a strong or deep attachment to the idea of European integration. Arguments about the need for European integration to transcend war in Europe tended to reinforce a sense of Commonwealth commonality for the British rather than a sense of European commonality. Although the Empire and Commonwealth had become a mere source of nostalgia in British consciousness by 1975, the weak support for European integration continues to condition British attitudes to European integration to this day. Indeed, in the current Eurosceptic climate, the Dominions are making a return to British political consciousness.