Welcome to What England Means to Me

After a brief hiatus What England Means to Me is back!

We welcome contributions from the public. So if you're English, or if you're not English but feel an attachment to England, please come in and take a look around and get in touch via the contact page if you would like to write an essay. If you do not wish to contribute an essay then please feel free to browse and, perhaps, leave a comment.

Thank you.

Tony Linsell

England
The territory that is called England is the homeland of the English. The English gave their communal name to England and have lived in it ever since. England means “land of the English”.

The English
By “the English” I mean the ethnic / indigenous English. They are members of a community that has a recorded history that goes back nearly 2000 years. That community – that nation – migrated from Jutland to Britain about 1500 years ago. People who have since then merged into the English population, and are indistinguishable from the English, and claim no identity other than English, and are accepted by the English as being one of their own, are English – and England is their homeland.

A Nation
The English are a nation. By “nation” I mean a group of people bound together by a shared history, culture, ancestry, language and communal identity. A nation is a group of people who feel that they naturally belong together – they share common values, perceptions and interests. A nation is an extended family – a group of people who are willing to endure hardship and sacrifice in defence of each other and their communal interests. Our instincts have been shaped by natural selection to enable us to live and flourish in a community. Our instincts are not suited to an atomised existence in a disorderly society.

A National Homeland
All nations seek to establish or preserve a homeland because it provides a physical space in which the nation can govern itself and live according to its own laws and customs. Freedom and democracy are impossible without core shared values and a shared physical space in which to live by those values. Democracy is about a community freely and fairly electing people from within the community to govern the community according to rules that are acceptable to the community. A government is expected to do all it can to maintain a healthy, peaceful, sustainable community. The more distant a political and economic system gets from communal self-government and the pursuit of communal interests, the less democratic it becomes and the less freedom its members enjoy.

What England Means to Me
England is my communal homeland; a physical space in which my community has from time to time been able to more or less govern itself. England is a place that has been physically shaped by my community. Its landscape, whether in town or countryside, tells the story of my community’s history and achievements; its good and bad times; its values and traditions. The landscape of England reflects the social, political, and economic history of the English. Pubs, churches and people are part of that landscape, they indicate English territory. When they disappear, as is increasingly happening in towns and cities, it indicates that the territory has ceased to be occupied by the English – the English have moved out.

Landscape of the Mind
In addition to the physical England there is the England of the communal imagination – a place where no outsider can go. This is the England of our mental landscape – imagined but nonetheless real in that it is moulded from a very early age and affects how we live in the real world. It is an accumulation of the informal prompts that permeate everyday life and which teach us the worth of certain values, perceptions and behaviour. The prompts are in such things as how others greet and speak to us – the food we eat and, how it is cooked and how we eat it – the sound of our language and how it both shapes and reflects the way we think and see.

Our mental and physical landscapes are the product of those who lived their everyday lives and the few who did exceptional things. Each generation leaves its mark on them.

Proof of Title
Hostile outsiders (and misguided or foolish insiders) often scoff and say, “I suppose you think you are Anglo-Saxon” or “Do you have a family tree that shows your ancestors where here a thousand years ago” or worst of all – and from the certifiable – “But we’re all Celts” . The answer is that I don’t have to prove my ancestry by means of formal records and bits of paper. It is enough that I am a member of the English community – its history is my history. As a member of the English community I am linked to the communal history and imagination of those who have for over a thousand years called themselves English and regarded England as their homeland. I have no more need to prove my ancestry than does a Sioux, a Maori, or an Irishman.

So, I am English and there are two Englands that are meaningful and important to me – both are an essential part of my communal and individual identity – both are my homeland.

Tony Linsell is the editor of Steadfast Magazine

David Rickard

How can I answer such a question?
Can a man truly tell his lover what she means to him,
Or a daughter her mother?

England. There is no other.

Words are not enough,
Not even those English words
Good, honest, simple;
Not always Anglo-Saxon
Even when we think them so,
But English, all the same;
Replete with history and tradition.

And yet in some ways,
There are too many words
How rich our vocabulary!
So many possibilities of expression;
Such a forest of meaning to get lost in
When language extends beyond its roots
And we cannot see the wood for the trees.

It is as if the whole world
Has poured its scattered meanings
Into our dictionary;
Just as now the whole world, it seems,
Has taken refuge on our shores
And seeks to make its home in England
Or is it, makes England its home?

For we are no longer sure
If we invited them – England, that is –
Not even those we truly welcome to our land.
That choice was taken from our hand:
England, the home of freedom,
The Mother of Parliaments,
Is not free to define the limits of its nation,
To have a destiny not just be a destination;
And be truly called by its own name.

England, the one and only.

Instead, the stranger is invited
To view himself as British:
In fact, an alien not sharing common values
But sharing our alienation;
For we, too, are called
To quit the foolish things of youth
In the name of a universal truth
That we are “British”:
Rootless wanderers of the global age,
And strangers in a land that belongs to all
And so belongs to none.

England: there is none other.

Words are meaningless if there is not heart;
And where there is no heart, there cannot be a home.
I have not always loved her, my England,
When I have travelled far abroad;
But I did not love myself when I despised her,
And always I have called her home.
And always, she has called me home.
She is, in so many ways, my very ground of being;
The wellspring that set my heartbeat racing.

Much that defines me defines England, too;
I belong to England and England belongs to me.
The rhythm of her language speaks in me;
I am the product of her history,
A part of her present
And the guarantor of her future.

For as long as my heart beats,
England, too, will not be beaten.
They can take our nation in name only;
But while I live, they cannot take her soul.
And that is what “England” means to me.

David blogs at Britology Watch.

Norman Tebbit

We are who we are by our parents’ genes, by our inheritance of history and culture and our own experience of life.

That inheritance of history may reach back to a time before one’s family came to this island – in the case of my father’s line, in the 16th century. So, to be English today is to be an inheritor of the most powerful language in the world – literature, art, science and technology, even sport, which have done so much to shape the world, and a philosophy or culture of government which has permeated not just the Anglosphere but great countries such as India.

We English are not an introspective people. We rarely think about England (except in the field of sport) unless something malfunctions. As for Britishness, that wider concept is a way of sharing with others living in this kingdom their history and culture and our own. It provides a banner around which we can all rally for mutual aid and strength.

Since the English have influenced and been influenced by almost every other nation we know that how others see us is as much about what they are as what we are. From time to time, if it seems to affect our interests we become anxious about that, especially if we are seen as weak, a soft touch or an unreliable friend, but being mostly content within our collective English skin we are neither extrovert nor introspective and leave others to make of us what they will.

Tolerant as we are, we do not require outsiders who come to live there to put on an English identity – but we do ask that they respect not just us but our English house – its fabric and its customs. Should they not like it we would not wish to detain them there – but if they and their children wish to join our tribe we see no reason to discriminate either against them or in their favour.

Quietly, as we look back at what the English family has done, what it has given to the wider world, we take pride – not arrogant nor puffed up pride, but honest pride in our history. That pride is patriotism and without it societies disintegrate into no more than crowds jostling for shoulders in one place.

For the English the modern cry for devolution sounds like a struggle to put back the clock and chop up the United Kingdom which has been of mutual benefit to all us British islanders. If that is what the others want so be it, but they should not think that they can have both their independence bun and their halfpenny too.

However, the concept of England is changing. The false doctrines of multiculturalism and the authoritarians preaching the doctrine of the big state ruling a citizenry denied the strengths of family and of religion and of history, has ruptured the English consensus. A growing underclass, the like of which England had not seen for centuries, rootless, feckless, ill educated and violent, has begun to infest England’s great cities. The ballast of the respectable working and middle class families is shifting.

They may look for a while at outsiders from the Continent of Europe to resolve our difficulties – as the Romans and Normans did in their time – and the political classes of Brussels are eager to do today. Or they may look to an English hero – a twenty first century King Alfred – to define as he did what it meant to be English.

His victory at Edington was the birth of England and the English which led through to the Magna Carta, the Tudors, the Empire, the Reform Acts and the 20th century wars to the flowering of an English culture whose power and reach has been rivaled only by that of China at its greatest.
The English must soon choose. To succumb like Italy after Rome – or to rediscover what Alfred found in Wessex a thousand years ago.

The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit, Conservative politician and former Member of Parliament for Chingford.