Though British history and identity in the early modern period are intensively researched areas, the role of literature in the construction of 'Britishness' is under-examined. English history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries often overlooks the contribution of Ireland, Scotland and Wales to the formation of the British state. Historians describe 'Britain' as a multiple kingdom, with a long history of conflict. In this 2002 volume, a team of leading Renaissance literary critics read a broad range of texts from the period, including plays of Shakespeare, in light of British history. Prominent historians respond to the issues raised by the volume. This collection opened up a different kind of literary history and has pressing relevance for discussions of 'Britishness'.
David Baker is Professor in the Department of English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He is the author of Between Nations: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marvell, and the Question of Britain (1997). His articles have appeared in Spenser Studies, English Renaissance Literature and Critical Inquiry. Willy Maley is Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of Representing Ireland: Literature and the Origins of Conflict (Cambridge, 1993), A Spenser Chronology (1994), Salvaging Spenser: Colonialism, Culture and Identity (1997), Post-Colonial Criticism (1997) and Nation, State, and Empire in the English Renaissance: Colonising Culture (2002). He also co-edited an edition of Edmund Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland (1997).