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About-Britain.com - British area studies
- How does Britain function?
- How is public life organised?
- How are things
done differently in Britain, compared to other countries? And why?
strong are traditions?
- How does the British economy work?
answers to these and other related questions form the basis of what is
known, for want of a better term, as "British studies", or "British
area studies", a
cross-cultural discipline that takes students beyond the simple study
of a language,
to a study of the country or countries – or the civilisation
– that has given birth to that language.
As a field of academic research and study, "area studies" is
recent concept. Until the 1980s, few universities offered
transdisciplinary courses. Studying "English" or "Anglais" or
"Anglistik" or "Filología inglés" meant
literature and sometimes a bit of linguistics. Graduates knew about
Shakespeare and Dickens, but generally knew very little about the
workings of modern Britain or the USA, their institutions, their
politics, their geography, their social issues. British politics were
the reserve of politics departments, British geography was for
geographers, not for students of English.... and so on.
Things are different today. In universities and colleges
worldwide, and often against strong resistance from the proponents of
traditional literature based courses, area studies have
literary studies as the backbone of language degrees. They are more
relevent to today's globalized world where a good knowledge of
Shakespeare, while being an admirable cultural asset, is usually of
little help when applying for a job.
Area studies are thus a transdisciplinary field of
study; they reach into
six main academic disciplines – history, geography,
sociology, linguistics and economics
– and may reach into others too; art, music, religion, and
To properly understand a nation, its institutions, its people, and its
language, it is necessary to reach into all these areas.
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