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Title: A new perspective on British identity : the travel journals of John Byng, 1781-1794
Author: Rupp, William H.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 3301
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
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The Honourable John Byng (1743-1813; later fifth Viscount Torrington) was a British soldier, civil servant, and diarist who wrote fifteen accounts of his series of pleasure tours between 1781 and 1794. Unpublished in his lifetime, these accounts were re-discovered in the twentieth century and have been in print ever since. Despite their scope (Byng visited two thirds of all English and Welsh counties) and detail (he filled twenty seven manuscript volumes totalling over 2,500 hand-written pages) his writings have been used only sporadically and anecdotally by historians. This dissertation, therefore, seeks to re-position Byng as an historical actor and his writings as a complex historical source that requires detailed re-examination and reevaluation. Doing so reveals that Byng’s journals can inform the historigraphical discussion that surrounds the creation of a ‘British’ national identity and consciousness in the late eighteenth century. Prevailing models stress top down dynamics and external forces that caused the English, Welsh, and Scottish to band together as a Protestant elect in order to survive the onslaught of the large, Catholic, Continental powers of the time. Whilst Byng’s observations do not refute this interpretation, they present a strong argument for the inclusion of ‘sub-national’ (hamlet, village, town, county) identities and loyalties in any attempt to chart British identity formation. To demonstrate this, elements of post-colonial theory, particularly contact theory, are used to show that in Britain Byng moved through a series of encounters akin to those experienced by Europeans in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Through his reactions, it is possible to see how these various identities complemented and competed with each other, particularly important social tropes such as politeness. Family composition and relationships with friends are also discussed to illustrate how focusing on individual historical subjects can yield useful insights into broader historical issues. Finally, the experiences of Arthur Young (1741-1820) and William Cobbett (1763-1835), two other well known travellers and commentators, are used to suggest the wider ramifications of the analysis whilst making links to wider study of domestic travel.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; PR English literature