This article explores the connections between official contemporary identity formation and colonial pasts. Using the case studies of India and Ireland the article explores how different traditions of theorisation are powerful in these formations. India and Ireland were two colonial domains that had many linkages outside the ambit of the British. These linkages are made sense of using methodological approaches like those deployed by Dick Selleck and Geoff Sherington in key works. Yet the colonial stories of these two countries are also distinctive, offering up strong trajectories that inform different contemporary controversies from uncomfortable yet stereotyped perspectives. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.