Transnational Britain:

Local and Global Connections in History


  • Rebekah Naomi Hodgkinson


Multiculturalism, Empire, Food History, Global, Transnational


Transnationalism is often cited as a recent development, relating to the modern globalisation of economies and widespread movement of peoples, but historians have long-acknowledged that national entities are extremely young themselves. Suggesting that national borders are being increasingly transgressed is to ignore that regions shared languages, traditions, foods and goods prior to the development of modern nation-states. British history is characterised by invasions, immigrations and imports which question any cohesive narrative of a national history, despite popular claims to one now being stronger than ever. Britain is an example of the paradoxical notion that a nation can itself be transnational, referring both to a multicultural nation and to a culture which, particularly in the period of Empire, existed across varied spaces and combined global heritages. Where cultural transnationalism is often understood in terms of separate national cultures interacting, this essay proposes that they are transcendent. Concentrating on food culture, this essay demonstrates how Britain’s transnational identity expanded through its imperial pursuits from the Age of Discovery onwards. I focus on India as the home of the East India Company, one of the first conglomerates, from its initial attraction through the wealth attached to its spices to curry’s consolidation in British consumption from the eighteenth-century on.


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, New York: Verso, 1983.
Bartlett, Robert. The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350. Princeton University Press, 1993.
Burton, David. The Raj at the Table: A Culinary History of the British in India. London: 1993.
Collingham, Lizzie. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Vintage, 2006.
Collingham, Lizzie. The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World. Penguin, 2017.
Dahlgreen, Will. ‘London’s Food Tastes – Mapped.’ YouGov. Politics and Current Affairs. Uploaded October 13, 2015. (Accessed March 10, 2019).
Fryer, Peter. Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain. Pluto Press, 1984.
Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. Originally published in London, 1747.
Glick Schiller, Nina, Basch, Linda and Banc-Szanton, Cristina. ‘Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration.’Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 645:1 (1992): 1-24.
Hall, C. Michael, Sharples, Liz, Mitchell, Richard, Macionis, Niki and Cambourne, Brock. Food Tourism Around the World: Development, Management and Markets. Routledge, 2003.
Kaufmann, Miranda. Black Tudors: The Untold Story. Oneworld, 2017.
Kennedy, P. M. ‘The Decline of Nationalistic history in the West, 1900-1970.’ Journal of Contemporary History. 8:1 (1973): 77-100.
Kumar, Krishan. The Making of English National Identity. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Lampert-Weissig, Lisa. Medieval Literature and Postcolonial Studies. Edinburgh University Press, 2010.
Leong-Salbir, Cecilia. Food Culture in Colonial Asia: A Taste of Empire. London: Routledge, 2011.
Liversidge, Joan. Britain in the Roman Empire. Routledge, 1968.
MacMillan, Margaret. Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives and Daughters of the British Empire in India. Thames and Hudson, 1988.
Mowgli Street Food. “About: An Indian Home Kitchen.” (Accessed March 10, 2019).
Mowgli Street Food. “Menus: Food Menu.” (Accessed March 10, 2019).
Oddy, Derek J. From Plain Fare to Fusion Food: British Diet from the 1890s to the 1990s. Boydell Press, 2003.
Smith, Anthony D. ‘National Identity and Myths of Ethnic Descent,’in (ed.) John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science, vol 1, Psychology Press, 2000.
Syvester, Rachel. ‘Cook Argues for Immigration into “Tikka Masala Britain.” The Telegraph (online). Originally published April 19, 2001. (Accessed March 3, 2019).
Taylor Sen, Colleen. Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India. Reaktion Books, 2014.
Versovec, Steven. ‘Conceiving and Researching Transnationalism.’Ethnic and Racial Studies. 22:2 (1999).
White, Daniel E. From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print, and Modernity in Early British India, 1793-1835. John Hopkins University Press, 2013.
Zlotnick, Susan. ‘Domesticating Imperialism: Curry and Cookbooks in Victorian England.’ Frontiers: A Journal ofWomen Studies 16:2/3 (1996): 51-68.




How to Cite

Hodgkinson, R. N. (2019). Transnational Britain:: Local and Global Connections in History. Trinity Postgraduate Review Journal, 18(1), 114–131. Retrieved from