Relations between Britain and Continental Europe have been a central, and often critical, theme in British history. They can be approached in a number of ways. It is possible to focus on international relations, a story of diplomacy, war and peace, and to chart the subject primarily in terms of the activities of states. Alternatively, a more diffuse account can be presented, one in which, in so far as space permits, wider questions of national identity, social structure and development, and cultural links are addressed. The latter is desirable, but is made more problematic by the culture and structure of the British historical profession. Whereas the history of international relations is a distinct subject in its own right and has been so from the initial development of the historical profession, the same is not true of comparative studies and of attempts to provide a wider account of Anglo-Continental relations.
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