Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Political Science General

Greatness and Decline

National Identity and British Foreign Policy

by (author) Srdjan Vucetic

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2021
General, Great Britain
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Exceptionalist ideas have long influenced British foreign policy. As Britain begins to confront the challenges of a post-Brexit era in an increasingly unstable world, a re-examination of the nature and causes of this exceptionalist bent is in order.

Arguing that Britain's search for greatness in world affairs was, and still is, a matter of habit, Srdjan Vucetic takes a closer look at the period between Clement Attlee's "New Jerusalem" and Tony Blair's New Labour. Britain's tenacious pursuit of global power was never just a function of consensus among policymakers or even political elites more broadly. Rather, it developed from popular, everyday, and gradually evolving ideas about identity circulating within British – and, more specifically, English – society as a whole. To uncover these ideas, Vucetic works with a unique archive of political speeches, newspapers, history textbooks, novels, and movies across colonial, Cold War, and post–Cold War periods.

Greatness and Decline sheds new light on Britain's interactions with the rest of the world while demonstrating new possibilities for constructivist foreign policy analysis.

About the author

Srdjan Vucetic is associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.

Srdjan Vucetic's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Greatness and Decline is a thought-provoking and impressively detailed account of British foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century. Vucetic’s insistence on consulting mass discourse sources alongside official government documents encourages readers to consider how foreign policy positions are imagined and produced beyond elite circles. In the post-Brexit context, when ideas of Britishness and Englishness are once more hotly contested, this contribution is a reminder of the political importance of knowing who we are.” International Affairs