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Keywords:

  • eurosceptism;
  • Blair;
  • press;
  • history

This article examines how Tony Blair on the one hand and the Euro-sceptical press on the other have ransacked history to support their respective arguments about British European policy since 1997. It considers first of all why history plays a key role in British discussions about European affairs; it does so, firstly, because of the discipline's intimate connection with the making of national identities and, secondly, because Europe has long been historicised as the ‘other’ against which the British identify themselves. The second part of the article considers the rhetorical strategies Blair and the press have used to persuade the public using content analysis of Blair's foreign policy speeches and articles on Europe in the sceptical British press since 1997. I argue that Blair finds himself in a difficult position in part because of his own failure to make the case for Europe forcefully and consistently enough and in part because of the difficulties inherent in altering deeply entrenched Euro-sceptical opinions in Britain's leading press outlets.