Thursday, 16th October 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

UKIP gets a lot of mileage out of promoting and apparently standing up for British history. Of course our history inevitably informs and affects the present, so the question is in what way should it do so? One approach to this would be a sort of differential calculus: historians could take a single day in British history – 3rd April 1964, say – and analyse it in terms of the racial profile of the population, the time in Parliament given over to discussing legislation originating with the European Economic Community, and other such matters. The same could be done for 16th October 2014. There would then be two options of what to do with the snapshots, and when assessing UKIP the electorate must choose between them.

A differential calculus ‘treats of the infinitesimal differences between consecutive values of continuously varying quantities, and of their rates of change as measured by such differences’ (OED). UKIP would have us focus on the first half of that definition: the differences between 1964 and 2014, and the way quantities have varied between them. The other option is to focus on the second half: rates of change as measured by such differences. In other words, can continuity and Britishness be found in a stable set of values or a stable direction of travel?