British institutions

British institutions

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About-Britain.com - British area studies

The 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 and culture – that has given birth to that language.
   As a field of academic research and study, "area studies" is a recent concept. Until the 1980s, few universities offered transdisciplinary courses. Studying "English" or "Anglais" or "Anglistik" or "Filología inglés" meant studying 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 replaced 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, politics, sociology, linguistics and economics – and may reach into others too; art, music, religion, and more. 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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