'The Empire of England: Enoch Powell, Sovereignty and the Constitution of the Nation

Nick Pearce, Michael Kenny, Lindsay Aqui

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The 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech brought back into public debate one of the most controversial figures in modern British political his- tory. Powell remains indelibly linked to the stances he took on race and immigra- tion in the 1960s and 1970s, but in recent years there has been a widening of the lens through which his politics and public arguments are viewed. This article con- tributes to this reappraisal, arguing that central aspects of his thinking were shaped by his highly distinctive reflections on sovereignty, representation, and the nation state in the early 1950s. It demonstrates that Powell’s positions on both the internal configuration of the nation state and its external relations were intertwined, and were applied by him on a fairly consistent basis throughout his career, informing the stances he took on the contentious issues of Europe and Ulster in the 1970s, as well as immigration. Our account of his thinking challenges both the tendency of his interpreters to treat his views on international relations and the internal politics of the United Kingdom as thematically distinct, and the accusation of political op- portunism that has been a central motif in commentary on his political career.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-260
Number of pages23
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


  • Enoch Powell
  • Sovereignty
  • Nation-state
  • Ulster
  • EEC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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