Gurminder K. Bhambra
Much of the debate around the referendum on continuing membership of the European Union was about ‘reclaiming our national sovereignty’. However, Britain has always been an imperial state, not a national one. When Britain was formed through the Act of Union in 1707, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland already had established colonies, including that of Ireland in the case of England and other territories in the so-called New World. After Union, they went on to establish an empire that, at its height, covered one quarter of the earth and governed over one fifth of its population – including by the 1920s, over one half of the world’s Muslims. This British state was an imperial state and, as such, necessarily multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural from the outset.