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20th century Britain's national identity to be studied by Lyon on sabbatical
Friday, December 04, 2015

20th century Britain's national identity to be studied by Lyon on sabbatical

Dr. Eileen Lyon

During her sabbatical, Department of History Professor Eileen Lyon will be researching, writing, and speaking on issues related to the formation of national identity in early 20th century Britain.

Dr. Lyon noted that national debates about the declining birthrate and the wide acceptance of eugenics among intellectuals added further complexity to these questions. There were steep declines in the birthrates of particular ethnic and socio-economic constituencies in Britain – most notably among those of an Anglo-Saxon middle- and upper-class background. What did this mean in terms of defining “Britishness” and what would it mean in the future? Eugenicist discussion of the permissibility of using artificial forms of contraception became mainstream in both religious and political fora. Eugenicists espoused a particular view of national identity and their projects related directly to that view. Successive Lambeth Conferences (of the Anglican Communion) considered whether the use of artificial birth control was morally acceptable. The interconnectedness of church and state meant that such a decision had a direct bearing on government policy.

Understanding the construction of national identities and the implications of these identities continues to be a salient issue in contemporary international affairs as nation-states struggle to address immigration questions and shifting populations.

Lyon earned her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and has published several works related to modern British religious and political life including “Politicians in the Pulpit” (1999) and "The Human Tradition in Modern Britain” (2005).

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