There is here not history but histories. The “island story” is neither; it pertains not to an island but to an archipelago and it contains multiple, shifting and sometimes competing narratives. Reynolds provides a very useful primer on the delusions of an English mentality in which, as John Pocock put it in a ground-breaking essay in 1974, the Welsh, Scots and Irish “appear as peripheral peoples when, and only when, their doings assume the power to disturb the tenor of English politics”.
Is there anybody in Britain, with the possible exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who seriously believes our history is a uniquely unsullied story of “global greatness”? Does any reasonable observer think that Britain and England are the same thing? Does anybody genuinely think we won the Second World War single-handed? Of course not. But as we have seen time and again since the referendum, there’s nothing academics like better than taking down a straw man.