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In Conversation with Alexander Menden

Northumbria University


Brexit and Nostalgia

Tanja Bueltmann in conversation with Alexander Menden

Keep calm and carry on: from stiff upper lip to the spirit of the Blitz, nothing has come to encapsulate Britishness more in recent years than this motto. Yet while it does indeed date back to times of war – the slogan was designed in 1939 by the Ministry of Information as part of a campaign intended to boost morale – it was rarely used publicly at the time. Instead, the role now associated with the slogan dates back to its re-discovery in 2000 and subsequent use during more recent times of crisis. Keep calm and carry invoked a key moment of the British past, a point of crisis that was overcome. Therein lies its appeal, but with that appeal also came a sense of nostalgia for a past that never quite existed like that in the first place. 


This nostalgia, the myths created with it by some media outlets and politicians, has played its part not only in delivering the EU referendum’s leave result, but also in Brexit discussions since then. From references to Empire 2.0 and the idea of building a new Royal Yacht Britannia to the spirit of Dunkirk, nostalgia can be found in many a discourse today.


In their conversation Alexander Menden and Tanja Bueltmann will explore the roots of this nostalgia from a cultural and historical perspective, and discuss the extent to which the myths it helped establish has put Britain on collision course with the reality of life as a small island nation in the 21st century – and of what it means for Brexit in that context.

Alexander Menden is the culture correspondent of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Professor Tanja Bueltmann is Professor of History and a Faculty Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria University.

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Event Details

Northumbria University
Lecture Theatre 401, Business and Law Building
City Campus East
Newcastle upon Tyne



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