Pete Kingston

What does England mean to me? I don’t know if I can think of England without thinking of Britain. We are inextricably linked (for now at least), a reminder of our colonial histories. I think England is possibly a country which is not honest with itself; the history of England over the past 100 years is largely the history of Britain, and one of diminishing individual importance on a global scale. I remember being taught about the World Wars at school, especially WW2, but at no point do I remember being told that England went into that war at the head of an empire, about which it had been too ambitious and was overstretched, leading to ever-more compromising treaties. Over the decade(s) following the war we (relatively peacefully, to our credit) largely withdrew, leaving countries to forge their own independence, but settled into a role more suited to our size/population. I think there is a cognitive disconnect, an ignorance about the scale of oppression England and Britain caused across the world – across the largest global empire ever to exist – and the legacy we bear. The British Empire was not a Scottish, Welsh, or (Northern) Irish empire, it was an English empire.

Of course, we were instrumental in the building of European co-operation, which we have helped lead to what the continent and the EU have become today. In many ways, we appear to have reflected on our legacy and tried to prove a force for peace and unity in the world – however in reality I would suggest that it has been done at least as much in the interest of self-preservation, to try to ensure nobody else can wield the power over us which have done over others.

All of this is about England, and Britain, as a nation/nations, and not about me as an English person or my relation to England; I have a simple reason. Nations – as has viscerally been seen as Britain withdrew from India, and from Palestine – are a way to divide people, to exclude people. Geography is no better a way to divide people than gender, skin colour, sexual preference etc etc – it is something that any one individual has no say over. You are born where you are born, and are arguably to different degrees lucky in that respect – and we are free to say it does not define us, most of us have some choice over where we live. And so I take my identity from the largest, most inclusive denomination I can: yes I am from Watford, from Hertfordshire and the ‘home counties’, from the Southeast, from England; but I am also British and European, most of all human, and of the world.

So, what does England mean to me? I do love the country I grew up in, despite all I’ve said above, but to me that country is Britain. England is a community, perhaps a super-community, within Britain, of people who identify with a common shared ancestry and culture, and yet within that commonality there are many more divisions, different subcultures and regional or local peculiarities, all of which add up to make richness – which is enhanced by additions from outside, not diminished. Inclusive Englishness is something I believe in, but also I believe it needs to be outwardly inclusive too; given which, I will always identify as British above English.

Pete Kingston: artist, educationalist, researcher, community facilitator. Working towards – and trying to understand – what is best for all.

John Botting

England to me is much more than a football team. The flag of St George means something very powerful to me. It’s a reflection of who I am, where I come from, what I stand for and where I am going. It is not a flag I wrap around me just when the national football team plays and then goes back into the cupboard until the next match. To set the scene, I am English not British. The Union flag and the British National Anthem don’t speak for me.

Recent polls back up my view on being English and show that people in England are now more likely to feel “English” rather than “British.” Whilst in the media discussions around sovereignty and our shared values focus on Britain, not England, which stifles conversation and holds England back.

What has pleased me – and I certainly wasn’t expecting this – is that from the England football team’s success there is now a new and almost wholly positive debate about English identity taking place.

Publications from very unexpected sources such as the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Telegraph and – wait for it, Ladies and Gentlemen – even the Guardian. Yes, even they have reported about the English coming together with warmth.

The mainstream media love to portray the English as knuckle-dragging racists wherever they can. Hang out the English national flag when the England team isn’t playing and that beloved flag means something else.

In truth, most English people have long abandoned ethnic and racist ideas of Englishness. The vast majority of us don’t believe you have to be white to be English.

Increasingly over the last twenty years the meaning of being English or British have diverged. Twenty plus years ago you would see far more union flags at an English football game than you would the Cross of St George. At the recent World Cup you would be hard pushed to see a union flag. And this is a reflection on what is happening in the country and people’s views on being English.

National identities in the UK are diverging and I for one celebrate this. The other home countries such as Scotland have had a long history of nationalism and a separate political identity. The English have not.

The feeling of Britishness is much stronger in large English cities such as London. But go outside of these clusters and into the rest of the country and Englishness is much more visible and more proudly spoken about.

Shockingly England, has no state, no citizenship and no national political space. England is the only part of the UK not to have its own elected parliament or assembly. Yet England is the biggest country within the UK and has by a long way the biggest population and economy.

Make no mistake, this policy of refusing England the same chances as all the other UK countries is being driven by a powerful anti-English faction within the UK’s British identifying elite. This vengeful, controlling faction is found within the media, politics, academia and large corporate business. They detest the thought of England becoming a successful nation-state.

English national identity is now greater than British national identity in England. More people say ‘I’m more English than British’ than vice-versa. Yet England and the English barely feature in the national debate.

We the English under our new found nationalism must continue to move forwards. We must not pull back on the new mood within the country. We must, as a priority, make our voices heard in the corridors of Westminster.

John Botting is an ex police officer living in Kent. He is also an active member of the English Democrats. Twitter @johnbotting

Richard Fowler

“Let’s have fish and chips……………cos that’s what we do isn’t it Dad? Cos we’re English aren’t we Dad?”. I countered vainly that we ate fish and chips because we loved the taste but I could see my 6-year-old son Tommy was far from convinced. It was the Summer of 2008 and we were visiting grandparents back in the UK.

I had left England with my young family in 2004 to pursue an opportunity in Shanghai and we were to live there happily, bar the odd hiccup, until our departure in 2012. Having spent my life in England, English customs and culture represented the ordinary and constant backdrop to my life. It was the natural setting, the default mode and as with most permanent features of any setup, you become oblivious to them.

It was therefore very interesting to see the thirst for a national affiliation in my young children. Growing up in an alien environment, they were less confident in their national identity than their parents. Tommy, though born in England, had left at 13 months and so had no recollection whatsoever of the home country. He knew fairly quickly however that he was not Chinese and was anxious to conduct himself in such a way that demonstrated beyond any doubt that he belonged to that same English club as his mother and father. Eating fish and chips was just one of the necessary, albeit enjoyable, English rituals.

His older sister Isabel, was no different. Just shy of her 4th birthday I found her arguing in mandarin with some young Chinese girls on the compound. I congratulated her on her excellent Mandarin but this only made her angrier, exclaiming “But I’m English Dad! You know I’m English. I don’t speak Chinese! “

The need for a national identity, an affiliation to a tribe, a need to belong, was clearly an innate human need. Furthermore, the less secure you felt in your environment, the stronger that need appeared to be.

But what of myself? How did the absence of the hitherto ever present English backdrop affect me? In short, a great deal.

When you have live in a country where your tv screen goes blank should CNN mention Tibet or Taiwan, how can you fail to appreciate the freedoms enjoyed by our own media? Even the BBC, busy peddling its own various PC dogmas, seems benign by comparison.

I had always thought England’s reputation for good manners to be much overrated. Wasn’t it just a by-product of the English class system? Surely, polite society was just one more way to mark out, to segregate, one class from another. Just another ruse to trip us up and identify us for who we were. And besides weren’t manners really just contrived, another form of insincerity?

After being repeatedly and unceremoniously bumped out of queues, witnessing a few too many who refuse to shut the cubicle door, waiting in vain for someone to admit wrongdoing and show contrition, I was quickly disabused of my cynical view on politeness. To my surprise, manners did indeed maketh man. If you step off the curb at a crossing in Shanghai a driver will reward your temerity by trying to kill you, while in England drivers will stop to let you cross. Wonderful.

Britain’s political set up had never really grabbed my respect. What modern country in its right mind would allow a monarch to play a constitutional role? Add in that indefensible anachronism that is the House of Lords and surely you’re left with some patchwork, make do and mend set up? Yet again, China put me right on this. How can you fail to appreciate England’s checks and balances, its rule of law, after witnessing the excesses of arbitrary power in the PRC close up?

That Chinese political set up is a legacy of constitution through revolution. Winner takes all. In China, where are the boundaries between the state, the party, judiciary, the media? What tempers power and who holds it to account? Nothing and no-one it seems.

By contrast, evolution via accommodation of the various interest groups and institutions leaves Britain with a system that, despite its archaic strands, is a system to be envied nevertheless. Furthermore, that tradition of compromise has naturally permeated the culture of the people themselves. Traditionally, we tolerate those that we do not agree with and consequently, minority views have felt the confidence to speak up.

From being largely indifferent to English culture, political and social, I now find I have a deep appreciation for England and what it has given to the world. I could go on but typical of the country I love, there are restraints (800 words) to protect you from such excesses!

Time for a fish and chip supper I think………and not just because I love the taste….

Richard Fowler is 53-years-old and lives with his wife and three children in Solihull.

David Willey

“Are you English? We hate the English.” I was six years old and just starting my new school in Scotland, having moved up from Yorkshire due to my dad’s work. Up until that point I had no concept of England or Englishness. I knew I was from Britain because all the railways and gas and steel were British. Even my toy cars were “made in Great Britain”. I had no idea of Britain’s colonial past and no clue as to why the Scots would hate the English. Yet here I was, being told that the English were hated because of stuff that happened hundreds of years ago; stuff that I knew nothing about nor had any control over.

England has an image problem. The Irish, Welsh and Scots (and let’s not forget the citizens of all those overseas colonies that were once part of the British Empire) all see England as conquerors, as subjugators. The UK is not a union of equals, it is the English empire. This may not be the whole truth, but it is the perception. The Irish were so aggrieved by their treatment by the English that they resorted to armed insurrection to be free of English rule. While it is too late to save the union with Ireland, the union with Scotland still hangs on, but only by a thread. Brexit has again brought up the spectre of Scottish independence. Scotland sees itself being “dragged out of the EU against its will” by an England apparently populated by racist football hooligans.

It was pointed out by someone on the telly (can’t remember who or when) that in the famous (or infamous) 1966 world cup final, you would have thought that Britain had won. There were plenty of union flags on display, but not so many St. George’s crosses. Up until relatively recently the English merely saw themselves as “British”. Indeed, for foreigners, England and Britain are one and the same (much to the annoyance of the Scots and Welsh). There has never been a demand for English independence because England were the conquerors, the senior partners in the UK. Even in the devolution of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this was England granting “home rule” to the Celtic nations. The very thought of English devolution never crossed the government’s mind.

Is it time for England to assert its own identity, separate from “Britain”? If England is to lose its image as bullying conquerors, perhaps England itself should be devolved. If England had the same level of representation as the other UK nations, if the UK was a truly federal country like Germany or the United States, then England might finally be seen as an equal partner in the UK. It’s time for all parties and politicians to embrace federalism as a way to keep the UK from tearing itself apart.

David Willey was born in 1981 in Wakefield, Yorkshire and moved to Scotland in 1987. He studied Engineering at the University of Liverpool from 1999 to 2002, and spent the years from 2004 to 2014 in the Merchant Navy. He now lives in Bellshill and works in a factory making roofing tiles.

Mik Clayton

We English were moulded together over more than 1000 years and have stood mostly alone for well over 1000 years since.

We have survived the Norsemen, the Normans, the Papists and the Puritans, the Kaiser, National Socialism and Mondialism, for the most part by tolerance and self-reliance.

We have kept what we liked and made it our own, but we have discarded the rest.

Our natural religion has bound us together in resistance to oppression and stupidity, and yet may well have inspired Christ’s rebellion against there being a chosen people. Unspoken and often unknown English Heathenism has seeped into western Christianity and has formed the basis of many apparently Christian practices.

English folk naturally have a feeling for, if not a conscious understanding of, the wyrd. That web of fate that binds us to each other and to the past and the future.

Romance languages have a compound form for the past tense and a simple form for the future. Germanic languages are the reverse: I went but I will go as opposed to Je suis allé and mais j’irai.

This is an indicator that we English see the past as the fixed reality which explains why our options in the present have limitations, but what we do now, which is not fixed, will alter the options available to future generations.

This is why we feel a debt to our forebears for all the land, skills, legal and physical infrastructure they have bequithed to us, and a need to act wisely to protect what we have for our children.

This is why we knew our folk would vote for Brexit because we knew instinctively that we must get back control of our country whatever the cost. We owe so much to the Englishmen and women who came before us. King Alfred the Great who provided us with a legal system and the basis for nationhood; all the social reformers who freed us from serfdom, who emancipated women, ended the workhouse and forced transportation; the explorers who brought us tea and potatoes; our folk who found cures for diseases, and; all the non-English that helped build our canals, roads and railways. We owe a debt to see that these resources are used wisely.

We have developed a great wealth of folk culture over the years from nursery rhymes to pantomime, variety shows to cinema, morris dancing to sea shanties. We know we have a duty to resist the deliberate destruction and pollution of these things.

The very bones of our ancestors are being dug up and left in boxes, our sacred sites are imprisoned behind pay-walls. Monuments sold off and lost. In a variety show we enjoy foreign acts but we must also have our traditional English acts. English films as well as Foreign films.

We also need to protect our families. Honour our mothers by building a society where our daughters can be married mothers, have a house and look after their own children. Where their husbands can have a decent job and not need to move away. With schools for their children that will teach our English culture before other cultures.

We need to be able to provide our own health service for ourselves and pensions for our old folk.

Then we can feel happy and willing to assist others both at home and abroad.

Our culture provides a place for everyone whilst establishing a social norm that is the best for society as a whole. We are probably unique in the extent that we use irony and jokey insults to preserve this. This allows us to encourage conformity whilst permitting very large degrees of non-conformity. An example of this would be that a woman with young children should stay at home and look after them. All sorts of other options are permitted out of necessity or even choice but so is the odd ironic comment.

Mik Clayton was born in Leicestershire village founded by Saxons, in his grandparents’ council house.
Follow Mik on Twitter @SaveEnglishFolk

Andrew Sinclair

“O wad some power the giftie gie us, tae see oorsels as ithers see us.”

Those are the words of Scotland’s national bard – Robert Burns. This essay is about ‘What England Means to Me’ from a Scottish perspective, hence the introduction. When asked if I’d like to write a piece for this site, I was flattered and challenged in equal measures. I consider myself very Scottish, although I was born in Coventry. I support the movement for Scotland to once again be an independent nation, which means I support the SNP as the best vehicle to get Scotland there and I’m writing about England.

My first feeling about what England means to me is one of slight frustration. I can’t easily answer the question “What is England?”  The geographical area is well defined,  but what else?  These days it means to me the place where my daughter lives and works.  It was, but for a spot of gazumping, a place where I (almost) lived and worked.

England has had a real problem with its identity for a long, long time. England and Britain and UK have seemingly been interchangeable terms forever. So much so that when considering what’s England, or English, it’s difficult to separate them. Even contributors to this site casually conflate the terms “England’s” and “Britain’s” when referring to events and deeds of the past. England wears the coat of Britain with comfort, indeed the coat was probably tailored to fit England. This has to be a challenge for England and the English as Britain goes forward. Just what is ‘England’? How does England take off this coat of Britain and relax into its own identity? Nowhere is this confusion over identity shown more clearly than at rugby/football internationals where the England team uses the British national anthem as their own, even when they are playing against Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland – who all have equal claim to use that song. Staying in the sporting world for a moment there is “The FA” and The RFU”. All the other countries in the UK have a national identifier in front of their sporting bodies, e.g. “The SFA”, “The SRU”. Yet England uniquely seems the have the word “The”. Pause and think about that for a moment, and what it says about national identity.

The Union Flag is similarly easily swapped for the St George’s flag. This schizophrenia about identity runs deeply through English/British/UK history and doesn’t seem to have been resolved yet. Scottish nationalism has been and is a benign force: civic, progressive, pluralist, and deeply multicultural. The English nationalism we are witnessing is practically the mirror opposite – ethnic, regressive, anti-pluralist, and at war with multiculturalism and diversity. There are many essays on this site which talk of the English values of ‘fair play’ and ‘helping the under-dog’. Where are those values being demonstrated in post-Brexit England?

So England, the largest country in the United Kingdom. The dominant country, not a partner to the other countries. The devolution arrangements and very recent pronouncements from the Supreme Court  have shown this in sharper relief than ever before.  England – the country which rules that it’s too dangerous for nuclear weapons to be stored in its territory yet is happy for them to be stored within 15 miles of 46% of the population of another country in the United Kingdom.  Much has been said about the need for a parliament for England, to put it on a level footing with Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff.  EVEL will not deliver this. This is the politics of England, not the people. The political direction in which the country is being driven just doesn’t reflect the view the English have about England. English people are really no different from Scots, from Welsh, from Irish people. It’s a puzzle therefore why they are allowing themselves to be pushed in a direction which can only end in diminution of their country.

England is a country with areas of great beauty. The Lake District, the Cotswolds, the garden of Kent, the wilderness of Dartmoor. It’s all there. The Riviera on the south coast. What’s not to like about this land? And I do like the land when I’m there.  So is that what England Means to Me?  A pleasant place to visit?   London is good to visit, but not as stunning as New York.

Right now though, at the end of January 2017, there’s something happening in England which is causing real anxiety in Scotland (perhaps moreso in Northern Ireland and Wales too). England is allowing itself to become characterised by a meanness of spirit. The appalling murder of Jo Cox MP, the societal divisions being foisted, with no care or regard for the future, on England by its politicians, no longer sit comfortably with the Scottish character. Maybe it was always thus, but I don’t think so. The trajectory England is being put on is going to stress the bonds of the United Kingdom as they have never been stressed before. I doubt that they will survive.

So what is England? A proud nation, people who long ago created a vast empire but have yet to really come to terms with its ending. England – a nation with an identity crisis.

Andrew Sinclair, lives in Scone, crowning place of the ancient Kings of Scotland, and maintains a a keen amateur interest in politics and economics. More of his writing an be found at

John Davey

Jerusalem. Warm Beer. Cricket. I’ve seen,drunk and heard them all and – well, they don’t do anything for me really. Except cricket, which I played from the age of five. And I like the rather violent, post West Indies version of the game than the allegedly gentle, more ‘English’ game beforehand. Does that make me unEnglish ? I think not. I consider myself to be a patriotic Englishman. One thing I’ve never felt since I was very, very young is British.

I am from Cumbria, from a windswept town with substantial scots and irish communities. The England of my youth is an England of wind, strong tea, the bookies, of sports and working mens’ clubs. You won’t find it commemorated in any musical works of the heavyweight patriots : Shakespeare, I expect, had little to say on the subject of the anglo-scots dialects and their almost complete incomprehensibility.

I’ve also lived in London, where I’ve spent a lot of time. London is a global city, a city that has an uneasy relationship with it’s host nation in may ways. But England isn’t unique in having a cosmopolitan capital. My experiences in London – including close relationships with people of all races, colours, beliefs – I also consider fully part of “my England” too.

And here lies my problem. Where do I fit in to the ‘green and pleasant land’ ? It’s always been a source of some mystery to me. If I see references to the “essential” England (actually its usually “quintessential”) I see kings, warm beer, cricket on village greens, cucumber sandwiches, all drowned in Elgar (the worst bits). What I don’t see is a place to fit me in, unless it means being some kind of servant to the real English..

There seem to be two types of observations about national identity. One is modestly reliable – given to inaccuracies only by virtue of generalisations – and the other is synthetic, and usually less informative altogether.

Broadly speaking the former is about habits, and day-to-day, bread and butter behaviour. The English drink tea : the Italians are good cooks, and so on. Although hardly universal laws, there is a significant element of truth to them, objectively evident when people are travelling. Inasmuch as they possess what might be termed moral content, these are generally restricted to matters of taste.

There is then also a tradition of trying to go beyond the observation of habit and into the realm of what you might term the spiritual and philosophical components of identity. There is a great tradition of this – in European culture at least. It was evident that, from the moment of the creation of nationalism and nation states in the late 18th/early 19th century, some felt the need to spiritualise ethnicity – to make it nothing short of a metaphysical fact.

I can’t help thinking that such a quest is and always has been a complete waste of time. It is an intellectual endeavour that – at best , is of dubious value, and at worst has created some of the most astonishing nonsense ever written. Take, for example, all the volkische theories that the Germans immersed themselves in after unification in 1870.

These theories were an attempt to embellish, in semi-theological terms, the fact of German nationality. It was all completely pointless. German ethnicity was never really a problem. Germans never really doubted the fact that they were German. Germans were from the area of the Germany, spoke German and followed what might be termed German day to habits. Most importantly, (thanks to Napoleon), most Germans thought of themselves as German, and not something else.

You would think that would be sufficient, but for some it clearly wasn’t. A complete edifice of monstrous nonsense was constructed to show how the Germans were not just people who were good with machines and drank beer, but were born to be masters of men. You’ve heard it. The Germans were endowed with noble characteristics, naturally,that were unique to them…. Germans were not like ‘Western’ europeans, but more ‘Eastern’ (whatever that meant – it seemed to be a reason for not having elections )– and they believed in ‘freedom’ of course, much moreso than anybody else. As usual. And they were even physically different to everybody else, a unique race, the Aryans, a race threatened by Jews (in fact, astoundingly, one of the first proponents of this theory was a lunatic Englishman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain).

This nonsense surely reached it apotheosis when the Germans, according to Himmler, were descended from a race of Himalayan Giants. 70 years previously such nonsense would have been been the kind of belief reserved to small groups of people on the fringes of sanity. After a few decades of volkische nonsense, it all made sense.

And here we come back to our green and pleasant land. Is English nationalism making a similar error ? In recent times there has been an extended search for ‘Englishness’. It’s come about, one assumes, from the rise of so-called “celtic” nationalisms and the transfer of real rights to the celtic nations, with no such privileges for the English. There is also a need to consider the possibility that there could be – in the none too distant future – a ‘Britain’ that consists pretty much only of England. So at least one of the reasons for the pursuit of Englishness, it would appear, seems to be the need to meet a particular political challenge.

But what of this search ? What form is it taking ? Well, so far, it seems to be all literary. And at this stage, it is not extravagant in scope, fortunately. In fact it seems to be a kind of quest for a verbal bottle in which to neatly contain ‘Englishness’. But is this pursuit a sensible one ? Indeed is it of any value at all ?

Well, I think in one sense there is no doubt that the English are like the Germans. The English suffer no doubts as to their English ethnicity. They don’t confuse themselves for anybody else.I think that this is true for all white English, and for most second and third generation immigrants the only doubt is the extent to which they identify with their parents and grandparents. The identity of most 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants – at least in my experience – is nonetheless English first.

To which we should say – I think – that that should be enough for a progressive, English Nationalist response to England’s problems. Like the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish, the English are the victims of ‘Britain’ too. Victims of its backwardness, its inherent dislike of popular democracy, and all the destructive intellectual inheritance of a huge empire obtained and maintained for the most part by the use, or the threat of, prodigious and sustained levels of extreme violence.

But if it isn’t enough – which I doubt – what of the efforts to turn Englishness into a metaphysical fact ? Have these made any headway into finding what to put in the bottle ?

Well, for one I don’t think that they have. The problem is that a lot of the prevalent dogmas of British nationalism have been overlaid onto English nationalism.

Michael Gardiner

The pedantic part: England, in a proper sense in which culture and institutionality cross-fertilise, means the victory of the nation over the state-nation, and the release from a corrupt political class. This is also the recovery of what England had, will regain, and will rebuild. It’s hard to avoid a ‘listing’ tendency (Orwell has a lot to answer for here) – indeed the listing of listings has now established itself as an academic sub-genre. Beer gardens on a long sunny day. The South Bank. The Angel of the North. Premier League football. Bottom-up democratic traditions. But more fundamentally, what you experience in England, that is, in England – in large part swamped since 1945, or indeed 1746, by a biscuit-arsed, managerial, surveillant British call-centrism – is a sense of privacy which easily turns into a goodnatured neighbourliness, a sense of honesty and a dislike of pilfering and cheating which crosses classes, a politeness which is crucial to quality of life, and an unique dark and weird sense of humour which has often mistakenly been described as British (though the other of the UK’s nations have lots of this too).

Most pressingly, what England may ‘mean to me’ (as a possible non-member of the EU – though I find statements about England’s ‘naturally Tory’ status deeply suspect, as they are almost always based on British data), in the unlikely Doomsday Scenario of no (con)federal solution being reached, is having to apply for a work visa, since not only have I lived in England for only a few years, if we must do the DNA business I have nothing to offer, since both my parents and all four of their parents were born in the same Scottish town. (This may beg the question of why I spend so much time writing about post-British England, though very few English people take umbrage – a good sign). A real test of civicism is whether in a hypothetically non-EU, non-confederal England, the treatment of immigrants would get better than it is under the UK. I find it hard to imagine not. The thing is that I would be applying for such a hypothetical work visa, because England is the place in which I want to be – a fact thrown into immediate relief by the other fact that the United Kingdom is one of the last places on earth in which I want to be. What’s not to like: England, like Scotland, has great countryside and great cities, acres of decent people who will give you a conversation as well as the time of day (though less so the closer you get to Canary Wharf), widely-accepted basic standards of civility, and a sense of the ironic which exists almost nowhere else.

No, it’s the UK that’s a shit-hole: politically corrupt at the most fundamental level; given up to systematic theft by banks and streamlined agencies which think that people can be fooled by repetition of the term ‘unfortunately’; struggling with a wall-eyed imperial hangover which it tries to cure by throwing non-wealth-producing financial instruments at a small corner of its land to create debt bubbles; home to an Established political class which has come to seem unshiftable with its constitution which can only be approached when it has already happened; a brain-rotting celebrity culture; a sense of besiegedness that creates a total pickling in security, profiling, and, bizarrely, nuclear weapons… None of this last part is what England means to me. England is the possibility of escape from all this, of tapping resources that were already there and that have remained there underground, of building a country that knows and celebrates its medium size like its dodgy weather and lets its workers do real work and pays them real pay for it, elects who it wants instead of placing a despairing x next to the least bad profile, and knows how to have a laugh. It is, or rather it will be, a country in which PR gurus are pelted with tomatoes till they find a real job, in which estate agents are not counted as ‘professionals’, in which planned managerial strategies are never described as ‘unfortunate’, and in which the Queen lives in a council flat in Deptford (or however that saying goes) – but finds that she quite likes it, since the underclass created by the British political classes have realised that council flats are perfectly fine places to live if they’re surrounded by infrastructure and community; in fact its togetherness reminds her, in some aristocratic gene memory turned Gothic and ghostly, of some of the ideals of empire and Commonwealth that at the time no-one noticed were thoroughly rotten, because all they were were the grubby, mean-spirited capital interests of Britain.

Dr. Michael Gardiner is Associate Professor at Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick

Karl McCartney

To me, England and Englishness is a state of mind rather than just being a member of a people or race on an island just off the European mainland. It is a state of mind much admired and respected by many, whether English or not. There is also a strange English tradition of self-hate, or at least loathing, as Englishness is despised by many in England who would do anything to destroy it – mainly socialists and others on the left, and it is they who often decry ‘tradition’.

When I think of England, I think of a people are proud without being jingoistic, who are settled and comfortable in their own body and history – never wishing to be anything other than English, and who just have this natural balance about themselves. The English countryside is the perfect mirror.

They also believe strongly in fair play being the cradle of liberalism, modern democracy and freedom with responsibility. A willingness to support the underdog and wanting to give a helping hand to others and a clear sense of Christian Conservative principles underpinning the country’s instincts.

Lastly, what also sets us apart is our independence of mind, creativity and invention, a willingness to view authority with a more than healthy scepticism and also our dry and often self-deprecating sense of humour.

This is a jumbled mix I know, but it is really difficult to describe Englishness because it is just the sense you have of what it means to be English, and what it means to others. A state of mind as well as a strong sense of place.

Certainly, when I meet people from abroad I feel they look up to us still for the rules, history and standards we have set and expounded across the world. I also feel they can see this natural sense of comfort and confidence the English have about themselves as well as our scepticism about authority, the sense of fairness and our humour. Some, especially in the European Union, can see and sense this, but do not quite understand it, or want to understand it. I sense those in the rest of world are more comfortable about the English than those in the rest of the European Union who continue to be on a mission to try and control it. Those who dislike the English, I feel, are jealous of the English.

As well as looking up to the English, I suspect many from abroad would find it a bizarre trait that so many in England actually despise the English. Clearly, the Labour Party, especially New Labour, and the pseudo-intellectuals who hang onto its coat tails would do anything to dismantle it as all socialists do not believe in liberty and freedom, because they fundamentally believe the state comes first.

I never understand how the last Labour Government lost control of our country’s borders unless they did so on purpose. By allowing uncontrolled immigration, they willingly allowed a loss of Englishness, certainly this was the result of those coming here ending up in ghettoes as there were not enough resources nor time to allow proper assimilation. I am hopeful that those who have settled here recently will quickly become part of this nation’s rich fabric – and want to – much to the socialists’ annoyance I am sure.

Labour created the ‘West Lothian Question’ which has opened up some fissures with the countries within the British Isles with the hope that this would damage Englishness. The English are left paying twice, subsidising the rest of the British Isles but then still having to pay tuition fees and prescription charges for example, while in Scotland there are no such charges because these are subsidised by English money. That clear unfairness breaches the English sense of fair play and therefore is actually driving a heightened sense of Englishness – a socialist own goal, one of many I would say.

Labour also signed up for more European Union control and never be fooled by Blair and Brown’s refusal to join the Euro being based on economics, it was because they knew they would never win a referendum in England and therefore Britain. Perhaps it was a combination of the natural socialist tendency to dislike Englishness coupled with some, like Blair and Brown, who were not English.

In conclusion, being English is an indescribable, almost spiritual feeling. It is hard to put your finger on it, but that is the part of its beauty and its captivation. By and large one has still truly won the lottery of life having been born in England.

Every morning when I wake up I just know I am English, that it is great to be English and that England is the best country in the world. Granted we may no longer be the greatest at playing those games we created, but we still play them with much verve, skill and hopefulness that maybe one day soon we will regain our sporting prowess to match our proud history and current place in the world.

Karl is the Conservative Member of Parliament for the Lincoln Constituency which includes Skellingthorpe, Bracebridge Heath and Waddington East.

Anna Rettberg

Granted: I’m not English. So why write about Englishness? One reason might simply be that I like England and Britain. England is not my home, but still a place where I like to linger and to roam. And, well, I’m doing research about Englishness in literature, so I try to think about the issue in an academic way.

Yet why should a German be interested in that? And is my perspective a German perspective after all? When I think about how much I’ve travelled Europe alone this year, how I’ve made friends from all over the continent, lived in Italy for nine months, and have been to Britain for more than six months during the last four years without having actually lived there, I’m after all not so sure about the exclusively German perspective. Maybe I’m wearing German glasses with a European-cut lens through which I take a look at England.

Now what does England mean to me? I’d like to borrow a typically English form to present my ideas: the List. Through my German, European-cut glasses, I visualise my version of England: with red telephone and letter boxes, double decker buses, queues and many apologies, exact change for bus fares, myriads of train providers, stations without litter bins, “mind the gap”, centralised London, Penguin books, tucan and pelican crossings, yellow lights flashing next to zebra crossings, left-hand traffic, two yellow stripes on each side of the road, (littered) canals with narrowboats, red-bricked terraced houses, rows of chimneys with seagulls, single-glazed windows, fenced gardens, burglar alarms, mantelpieces, carpets in pubs and even bathrooms, separate warm and cold taps, electrical showers with low, medium and high pressure (I always wonder who actually enjoys having a shower with low pressure?!), mist and fog, rain showers, a nice drizzle and sunny spells, sparsely dressed, freezing girls, health and safety regulations, obscure cricket rules and village greens, the home of football, oaks and sheep on green fields, rolling hills, hedges and stone walls, a day out, Ordnance Survey maps, public footpaths, gates and stiles, cold cider, warm beer, foaming local ale pumped into royal pint glasses, early closing times and last orders, terrible instant coffee and the world’s best tea, scones and clotted cream, Cadbury’s chocolate, ‘5 a day’, going out for a curry, poppadoms and naan, Pukka Pies, fish ’n’ chips with vinegar, brown sauce, mushy peas, Marmite, full English breakfast, the distinct smell of B&Bs, warm welcomes and hospitality.

These loose associations are just a small part of the England that is appearing in front of my metaphorically bespectacled eyes. My list of course features some typical notions of Englishness, but also some aspects the English themselves perhaps wouldn’t have recognised because they are just too familiar with them. And this also leads me to a possible answer to the question of why a non-English person might also dare to interfere in reflecting on English national identity. My general impression is that the people who are academically interested in Englishness are often people who haven’t got an exclusively English background but tend to live in cultural border zones. By engaging themselves with Englishness, they not only reflect on their own cultures but also help form the open character of modern England because, after all, they happily share the affection for that peculiar country.

Anna Rettberg is a student at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, currently working on “Challenging Englishness: Rebranding and Rewriting National Identity in Contemporary English Fiction”.

Rosalind Davie

What England means to me can be summarised (with helpfully neat alliteration) in three words – language, literature and landscape, all of which I feel are inextricably intertwined in my cultural and historical identity. I was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and have lived in other parts of the country but returned to my home town when expecting my first child because, from somewhere, came the idea that I wanted my children to have the same geographical roots as me, creating a link between our separate identities.

Language, it seems to me, must be a unifying factor within national identity otherwise how else could we all live and work together in a co-operative and functional society? This is not to say, of course, that England does not now consist of a population which speaks many different languages. English is spoken mononlingually by 95% of the population of the United Kingdom, but Punjabi is the second most spoken language in the country. Immigration has brought numerous other languages into the United Kingdom alongside our own additional languages such as Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic. The English language itself has developed from Latin and Norman French along with other influences to become the vast lingual bank of hundreds of thousands of words that it is today. I don’t remember learning this rich and versatile language (not that I know it in its entirety) but I do remember always having enjoyed its expressiveness and eloquence and having always loved reading it. It is intriguing that the English language is never static but always changing, as old words are forgotten and new ones invented, keeping pace with modern life, but please Microsoft, keep your Americanisms to yourself.

Having studied literature for many years I find it strange that universities still tend to refer to the study of literature as ‘English’, although this refers in part to the fact that it is in English, there is much less tendency to study purely ‘English’ literature on degree courses. However, the canon stubbornly remains the same, weighted by class, race and gender. Our education system embraces multi-cultural literature up to a point, but is it enough? Does the literature of ‘England’ still mean Shakespeare rather than Linton Kwesi Johnson? The output of our English authors and poets means we have a national library of great writing, a wealth of diverse texts which capture the language, experiences and imaginations of writers over hundreds of years and to which new texts are constantly being added in a never-ending celebration of language on the page. Even e-books will need new works.

We often look to literature to transport us somewhere else but we also have a deep affection for literature which we can identify with our own region, our own landscape. Look in the offices of any tourist board in the country and you may find leaflets tucked away which promote the region’s literary connections – Hardy’s Dorset, the Brontes’ Yorkshire, Jane Austen’s Bath (although she hated the place)) and the Lake District’s Beatrix Potter among many others. We hold onto these connections between writers and their landscapes as part of our cultural identity.

I never realised how important landscape was to me, how it had become part of my identity until the rolling Cotswolds of Gloucestershire and its mellow villages, which I was so used to seeing, were no longer around me. However much we all enjoy travelling there is something deeply reassuring about the first view of the familiar patchwork fields of England from the window of a returning plane.

What England means to me’ now is that we need to hold onto and treasure the history, landscape and heritage we have, the cricket fields and ‘honey still for tea’ of quintessential Englishness. Picturesque towns and villages around the country are thronged with tourists in pursuit of this very thing. Yet we also need to change our traditional views and attitudes about what an English person looks and sounds like and embrace a changing perspective of a rainbow nation of creed, cultures, faiths, languages and literatures which can only enrich our views and experiences of England today and in the future.

Contributed by Rosalind Davie, born 1960 in Cheltenham, lover of language and literature, currently studying for a PhD at the University of Gloucestershire.

Andy Newman

As a young man I used to work on a ferry in the stark industrial landscape of Bristol docks. Today the harbour is mainly dominated by housing and leisure, but in the late 1970s Bristol had only recently ceased to be a major port: and industrial decline was symbolised by the empty wharves, abandoned cranes and cavernous, bleak, disused warehouses.

But it also screamed with the cries of ghosts. Over two thousand slave ships sailed from Bristol, transporting half a million black Africans: shackled, tortured, branded, murdered, raped, and reduced to the status of cattle. In all, nearly three million slaves were transported by British ships. Few slaves set foot on English soil, but some did. Under the vaults and caves of that most beautiful of English churches, St Mary Redcliffe, enslaved children, women and men were chained in the dark.

How could we English, who pride ourselves on our fair play, our belief in justice, and our refusal to kneel at the feet of tyrants have committed these crimes? How did we come to build an Empire of pain?

It is interesting how often loss of innocence is a theme in English culture.

The power of Blake’s Jerusalem is that by asking whether there was once a time when England was blessed, he acknowledges that it no longer is. We lost the England of Chaucer and Shakespeare, the England of woods and glades. We put those better days of an early nation behind us to take up Empire.

Of course we English share a beautiful and expressive language, and many of the personality traits and the values we believe in are specific to our culture. We share a landscape that’s mellow and temperate, but also often industrial and urban. Yet England has always been contested.

In mythology, Robin Hood and his Merry Men not only stole from the rich to give to the poor, but also proved that the yeoman with his longbow could fell the armoured chivalry of their oppressors.

The peasant revolt in 1381 asked a simple question, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?” The English revolution spawned the Levellers and the Diggers, and a demand for economic equality in our common treasury.

Our England is the England of General Ludd and Captain Swing and of the Chartists. It is the England of the 1926 general strike, of the battle of Cable Street, the fight to free the Pentonville Five, the Anti-Nazi League and the great miners’ strike.

As a largely industrial and urban country, the Labour movement with our belief in social and economic equality, and our belief in extending democracy has made a huge and indelible impact on England’s culture and history.

Of course we share much of this history with our friends and cousins in Wales and Scotland. But England’s loss of innocence was bound up with the birth of the Union. The bloodstains of the British Empire are soaked equally into the souls of the English, Welsh and Scots because “Britain” was always a marriage based on shared guilt.

We should be aware that England has a proud and long history of fighting for equality and freedom that runs alongside our sordid history of Empire. We are a happily multicultural nation that should take a modest place in the world, and aspire to make a fairer, more equitable country, a better England for ourselves and for our children. We need to build Jerusalem here, not only on our green and pleasant land, but in our cities and housing estates as well.

Andy Newman is a socialist activist from Swindon, he contributes to the blog Socialist Unity.

Julius Whacket

It’s hard to be rational about something that goes as deep as England does for me, an Englishman. In good psychoanalytical fashion I will begin at the beginning, with my childhood experience.

My father had lost a much-loved brother in the Second World War and two uncles in the First World War. These men had died for England. It was hard for me as a young child to imagine what this England could be, that it should justify people dying for it; it would need to be much bigger and more mysterious than the people and buildings I could see around me. The only thing that was capable of signifying this England to me was the vast and eternal sea. My Grandmother lived on the coast and she would take me for walks on the shingle beach in all weathers. She told me that I would have liked the uniformed men in the photographs on her dressing table, but they had sailed away in a big ship and never come home again.

My England is conventional, a litany of familiar objects bobbing around on a sacramental sea of Englishness. It’s the English sense of humour, and how this complements our pragmatism and unflappability; it’s The Cenotaph, football and cricket, the Book of Common Prayer and Anglican psalmody, common law and the pub; Thomas Hardy, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Anthony Powell, Vaughan Williams’ setting of On Wenlock Edge, John Fowles, Britten’s War Requiem…

England is home. I was taught that the English countryside is the most beautiful in the world, and I truly believe that it is; but it’s more than beautiful. The countryside is where you can see the land of the English, where it isn’t hidden under concrete. The mere thought of our countryside our oaks and beeches, fields, hedgerows and churches, our countryside, thrills me with a sense of my own connection with the landscape, a connection etched out in Anglo Saxon place names and field boundaries. The sound-track is the cawing of crows, the skylark’s song, and church bells.
But now I have to pause and take a deep breath, and even blink back a tear.

The Whackets knew about the death of England long before commentators started writing books about it. It feels to us as though England has been betrayed. This comes partly from a sense that people like the Whackets, who had always been the salt of the English earth and given better than good service to their country (my father was a third generation Royal Marine), were left behind in the decadent 1960s. Our leaders turned out to be weak and useless, and the Government’s failure to prevent mass immigration was final confirmation that the England that had been fought and died for was finished. What little remained of England after 1968 was denatured by the American cultural hegemony and washed out by the big corporations in what Paul Kingsnorth has described as ‘the Blanding of Britain’.

It is a function of culture to tell us what to feel. If the prevailing culture tells the English anything about themselves it is that they should be ashamed of their Englishness apart from the bits that support the needs of diversity or, at a pinch, the ‘heritage industry’. According to this culture my picture of England is unhistorical caricature, inconsistent, fails to take moral responsibility, is probably racist and sexist, mistakes my childhood for the world, and so on. Entertaining though it is to critique that sort of critique, the real point is that at the end of the day my Englishness isn’t something that I can pick up and put down at will. Without wishing to dramatize, my Englishness is at the core of my personality and I am therefore barely able to reflect on it.

So far as I can tell from peering into the fog of discourse, the re-imagining of England is taking place at two levels; at the level of personal Englishness, and at the level of constitutional settlement. The idea of re-imagining personal Englishness feels threatening (it is an idea that is at the heart of the Government’s diversity strategy). In principle, any new constitutional settlement should respect the right of the English to express their distinctive Englishness (for example, as part of a federal Europe that gives the same protection to all European nations). The alternatives, which seem more likely to me, are either rawer expressions of Englishness or its final extinction.

Julius Whacket is the pen name of someone who lives with his family in Surrey.

Philip Wilkinson

I live in north Gloucestershire, so my home territory is bounded by the limestone villages of the Cotswolds, the market gardens of the Vale of Evesham, Herefordshire’s apple orchards, and the ‘black and white’ villages of the southern part of Warwickshire. It’s the kind of place – tranquil, rural, steeped in history – that many people think of when they think of England, and the villages of Warwickshire, with their timber-framed, thatched houses were described as ‘Unmitigated England’ by Henry James in a phrase that has been much recycled since he coined it.

The first book I read about the area, John Russell’s Shakespeare’s Country, was also alert to this quintessential Englishness. Writing during World War II, Russell knew that this was a place where one could savour England’s history and tranquillity. He also knew that the war placed these very qualities under threat, and the region associated with Shakespeare stood for the whole country that soldiers, sailors and airmen were fighting for. Yet Russell, with the sharp eye that would make him a penetrating art critic, was also aware of the rich array of outside influences that helped shape this very English region. In Shakespeare’s area he could cite almshouses built by a Westphalian, a wool-weaving industry founded by Flemish artisans, Dutch armourers, Hungarian workers who created a glass industry, French craftsmen. Even the market gardens of Evesham were apparently started by an ambassador from Genoa.

All these contributions were part of networks of interaction stretching over hundreds of years. Slowly – these things do not happen overnight – Middle England’s industry, commerce, and society absorbed these influences, just as England’s art has benefited from all kinds of ideas from overseas. Shakespeare himself absorbed and transformed writers such as Plutarch, the Romantics devoured German philosophy and poetry, writers such as Rosetti were inspired by the poetry of Italy. In architecture, too, English builders have been transforming foreign styles of centuries, creating out of Norman models our own massive version of the Romanesque, out of French ideas the uniquely English Perpendicular Gothic of King’s College Chapel, out of the designs of Greeks, Romans, and Italians, new kinds of classicism. The most English of composers, Vaughan Williams, took lessons in France (he went to Ravel, he said, to acquire some ‘French polish’); our most popular drink, tea, comes via the empire from India; and if our stereotypical meal, roast beef, is local enough, it can be accompanied by red wine – and if our purse doesn’t stretch to St Emilion, we can resort to something like the curious hybrid tipple of Rumpole, Château Thames Embankment.

This island nation, in one way so isolated by the sea, has been hospitable to those who have made it across the waves and receptive to the cultures they brought with them. Norman masons, Huguenot cloth workers, those seeking asylum from Vietnam or Uganda, artists from Paris or Prague, have gained from living here, but those here already have gained from their presence too. So when I look at the typically English scene around me, I feel thankful for the diversity of culture and heritage that underlies it. The range is formidable: great Gothic ‘wool churches’, paid for by merchants whose trade made links with France or Flanders (one, Fairford, even contains stained glass made by Flemish glaziers); ruined monasteries inspired, and sometimes led, by monks from Rome or Burgundy; palatial country houses furnished with the aid of Italian tutors and guides and funded by agriculture in the native hills; factories started by immigrant Jews from central Europe or British citizens from the Indian subcontinent. Quintessential England, but with links all over the world.

Philip Wilkinson is a writer and blogger whose published books include The English Buildings Book, 50 Architecture Ideas You Really Need To Know, and What The Romans Did For Us. He lives in the Cotswolds and the Czech Republic.

Mike Smith

I think the best thing I can contribute is a hymn that I wrote for the Gloucestershire Branch of The Royal Society of St. George’s Annual St. George’s Day Service in Gloucester Cathedral.

The Service fills the Cathedral each year with representatives from many strands of English life.
It was honoured with the presence of HRH The Duke of Gloucester last year.

‘Oh, Lord Whose Bounty Never Fails’ -.
Tune; Repton (Dear Lord and Father of Mankind)

O Lord, whose bounty never fails
We thank Thee for our land,
The gentle hills, the rolling dales .
Where lark Thy Glory sweetly hails
And thanks Thee for this realm.
And thanks Thee for this realm
The teeming seas; the fertile fields,
That give our daily bread;
The pastures green that cattle feed;
The oil and coal, the fuel we need,
Are gifts, all sent from Thee
Are gifts all sent from Thee.
A cradle of democracy,
Where man may speak his mind
And worship Thee, in manner free
O! Let us sing wholeheartedly
And thank Thee for this realm
And thank Thee for this realm
But freedom is a fragile flower
That needs such tender care.
We ask Thee for Thy help each hour
To keep it fresh in England’s bower
And safe for all to share
And safe for all to share.
copyright; The Royal Society of St. George, Gloucestershire Branch.

Glyn Coventry

I suppose, as an Englishman, I share a generic mindset with any patriot of any country anywhere in the world. I’m driven by a deep sense of love of my country, a binding with it, a sense of identity with its very fabric and a longing for its commonweal and prosperity. Simultaneously, I feel a need to protect it, to spare it from embarrassment and to rail against the machinations of those who wish it harm. I realise there is nothing specifically English in these sentiments: I’m sure many non-English relate to this mindset too. Clearly, “Englishness” is more about a uniqueness, a set of idiosyncracies which collectively mark us out as being…. us.

We live south of Scotland and East of Wales on the island of Great Britain. From the genesis of our nationhood when Saxon and Angle intermarried and settled in the land that became England we have marked out this England as our ancestral land. We were one of the first European countries to unify and form a distinct identity. We have had this identity for over a thousand years and despite William the Conqueror, the Act of Union and latterly, the onslaught of Multiculturalism, our individual nationhood has remained strong. Moreover, this sense of history, tradition, nationhood pervades my sense of Self. This is reinforced by the physicality of my environs. I am reminded of my English roots in our interesting ancient buildings, our beautiful countryside and our dramatic coastline. The architecture of our towns and cities is a unique menagerie of styles that reflect some aspect of our national journey.

For me there is a solidity, borne of the state, that is attached to being English. Our institutions are ingrained in our sub-consciousness. Whether or not one agrees with them, our monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, Parliament, civil service, armed forces and Church all work well and generally to a high standard! Centuries of refinement and testing out have resulted in evolved structures of state that can be taken as a “given”. I know they are there and that they work: I don’t have to worry about coups d’etat, dictatorship, a corrupt judiciary or biased civil service. Within this framework I am free to speak my mind, I am free to make decisions, I am free to live a lifestyle that enables me to express myself and be happy (but with the proviso that I don’t harm others and abide by our laws). Basically, I can get on with my life as an Englishman unlike, alas, many in Africa, South America and Asia.

I’m proud to be English! We have certainly made our mark on the world. Our language is universal. Our literature, music, science, engineering, architecture, TV shows etc. have all, (disproportionately for such a small nation) influenced the world scene. We spawned some of the world’s firsts…modern science through Newton, Darwin and others, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, manifold inventions and innovations, wonderful literature and poetry and fantastic music. The list isn’t exhaustive. We also spawned the largest empire the world has ever seen which, in my opinion, was a force for great good in the world and, importantly, have since become the world’s greatest de-coloniser. We established workable democracies and viable economies in these former colonies and have nurtured them in nationhood with aid thereafter. We won two World Wars. We have fraternally stood by our allies in time of their darkest hours, witness Belgium, Poland and latterly the USA after 9/11. We continue to stand up for what is right in the world, even if this means loss of our dear compatriots. We continue to contribute, innovate, invent and influence.

I think we English are a people of character. We have a great sense of humour. We like to talk to one another: even strangers will utilise the topic of the weather to break the ice. As a conversion develops humour tends to creep in at some point. I notice that English people are more likely to use smiles and other aspects of facial expression to convey a positive contact when they meet others (notice how cold many Europeans are in contrast). We tend to be very accepting and polite to others. Our cultural etiquette demands that we see our faces and that we convey an openness, an acceptance of the other and that we should attempt to be civil. I’ve noticed, having travelled abroad, the absence of this politeness and friendliness. We can be eccentric and quirky. We facilitate self-expression and tend to accept the unusual. We can be seen as libertarian but there are cultural rules of engagement to ensure a propensity toward mutual respect.

Being English for me involves a good sense of the above. It is about connecting to one’s roots, being proud of our nation’s historical journey (warts and all!) and expressing one’s self to others in our unique way.

Jacqueline Meyer

England is first the homeland of my birth, the land I grew up in, the land I love with a passion; indeed, if it were ever needed, the land I would die for.

Why? Because England is my land, it is the land of my forefathers who lie buried beneath its soil, and have done for generation after generation. It is the land of green rolling hills, and winding rivers. The land of the Yorkshire pudding, and Lanchashire hotpot, of the Cornish pasty, and the Cumbrian sausage. The land of the pie and eel shop, and the cream tea restaurants. The land of the fish and chippy. The land that gave the World, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Newton, Nightingale, Constable and Turner, Willberforce, Nelson, Wellington and Churchill, to name but a very few. The bluebell woods of Kent with their dappled sunshine. The thatched cottages of the Home Counties. The rugged coast of Cornwall, the beautiful moors and solace of where earth meets sky in quiet solitude of the Yorkshire dales. The bustle of the old London, and the real cockneys (of whom my mum was one). The maypole on a village green, morris dancers in the English countryside, and the game of bowls or cricket on a summer’s afternoon.

Unfortunately so many of our English children are not brought up knowing this as it is not taught to them any more in our schools. So many of them even feel ashamed to admit they are English because of the negative things they are taught about their own people (the English). Many do not seem to know that being British is not the same as being English – Britain is made up of four different countries, these being Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England. England is a country in its own right just as the English people are a people in their own right, and they have their own culture. I am British yes, as I am part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but first and foremost I am English, as England was the land of my birth, and my parents were English.

I am proud to be English. Being English is not however just about being born here, it is about love. Love for England, love for the English people, love for our past, and love of our national heritage as a race – and that race is English. The very essence of England flows in your blood if you are truly English. It is not just history that makes us English or our people English, it is our very character, nature, culture that makes us Englishmen and women. It is a gut feeling, a certain knowledge and pride in our country and in our people. I feel that many see England as a soft touch. They mistake the English tolerance for weakness, and the English sense of fair play for stupidity; many have found out they have judged us English wrongly in that.

Yes we are fair minded and we are tolerant, but we have a lion as our emblem, that roars; and a bulldog, that when pushed too far bites.

England has contributed much to the world, and I am sick of hearing only of the bad we did. We did a lot of good too. As in railways, education, hospitals. England needs its own Parliament, just as the Scots have, the Welsh have and Northern Ireland has . Westminster is Britain’s Parliament, it is not England’s. England has no Parliament, and this is unjust and an affront to the English people . We do not want Scots, Welsh, or Northern Irish MPs deciding matters that only affect England, while they have their own elected represenatives to decide matters that affect them exclusively. Yes stay as a United Kingdom in matters of defence etc., but give us English our own Parliament. To end my small contribution on what England means to me, I will say this, I am English and proud that I am of English blood and of the English soil. I am entitled to that pride in my nation and people, the English.

Alan Jacobs

When anyone asks me: ‘Are you British?’ I want to say “No! I’m English.’ Why? Because I’m proud to be English. I’m also proud to be British, but first, I’m English.

So what does being English mean? Yes, of course, you’re English if you are born in England, but not just that. To be proud to be English is to be proud of what England stands for. The problem is defining what England stands for. Less and less, I hear people saying. That’s too true in some ways. We seem to be giving away all the things that made England a wonderful place to live in. But that’s true of Britain as well.

Britain is a small collection of kingdoms. A united kingdom. But how united is it. Day on day we hear from the Scots who want independence from Britain. Ireland wants to reunite with the North. Wales has rediscovered its identity and its pride. Only England has yet to stand up and be counted.

Why is this, when we still have so much to be proud of? Not just nationalistic jingoism, but pride in the country and all it stands for and has stood for, for generations.

My family arrived in Britain in the early 1900’s. Britain took us in when so many would not. The family worked and thrived as most immigrants did in those days. They did not come for free handouts, but to flee persecution and build a new life. Over the decades since, our family members have become English. My wife and I live in a country village of thatched cottages and old world charm. A typically English village! It’s even got a village pond.

England has always been an entity within another entity. Being British has not stopped us being English, no matter how hard various political parties have tried to prevent the feeling.

Being English is more of an emotional thing than a practical one. You can’t say it’s about the language barrier because the Cornish have their own language and regional jargons all would seem to divide us. But it does not divide us. If anything it unites us as English men and women.

The industrial revolution started in England and swept the world. England’s empire was second to none in size or wealth. OK, that empire is gone, now. Like all empires, they have had their day. Maybe Great Britain has had its day, too. But should England be lumped in with that? No! Undoubtedly – no!

England will still have much to offer for centuries, if allowed to do so. English culture and heritage was once its pride. It can be so again. We only need a voice. A voice to equal the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh.

We need an English Parliament to speak up for the English. Without it we will descend into mediocrity. We do not deserve that. Not now! Not ever!

The EU denies our heritage as it does the other member states but, while the others kick against the demand of the centralised government, Britain drags England into line. Our tail between our legs.

Everything that we once prided ourselves in our Englishness, has become anathema to our masters. While France and Germany flout the rules they don’t like, Britain accepts. But nowhere is that acceptance felt more than in England.

For we are being denied our very identity.

Of course change is always painful. We’ve dragged ourselves, kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century but if we can keep it England’s twenty-first century, we can grow with it.

We must always take in the down trodden of other countries. That is part of our custom. However, taking in all who can get on a boat and sponge off us is not good economics. Nor is it right and proper. Our very Englishness will be swamped and overridden.

We, who love England, want to keep on loving it. If the rest of the world don’t like that in us, we’ve lived with that before. We can live with it again.

Denis Lipman

I left England at time when gainful employment was not all that easy to gain. Mind you, I was quite happy to gad about surviving on the odd song royalty or the occasional writing job. Reaching the dangerous age of thirty, I suddenly realized I had better try and get that thing I had, until then, steadfastly refused to search for: a proper job. Besides, several adventurous but potentially lucrative projects in music, film, and theatre had either crashed and burned or simply petered out rather ingloriously. So the time had come to look.

I tried to get into advertising as a junior copywriter. Unfortunately my spotty resume as a lyricist, magician, and aspiring playwright impressed no one. Even being a member of a prestigious writers’ workshop did nothing to improve matters. “Fink you can amble out the Aldwych and get a job in advertising, who do you fink you are –– Jack the bleedin’ lad?” I thought I was an out of work writer, and certainly not one bit of a lad, Jack or otherwise. But I was thought to be slumming. Oh well.

I could have emigrated to Canada or Australia, but I came to America and the Washington D.C. area. I liked Washington from the time I had spent there a decade before, as a kid in the magic game. And there was another reason: Washington was on the Eastern seaboard, which gave me a foot in the pond, an uninterrupted horizon, with good old Blighty hiding just beyond it.

Americans I met were friendly, supportive, and very encouraging. Even my threadbare resume raised interest instead of hackles. Yes, the accent helped a lot. I sounded cleverer than I was. But folks gave me a chance, and I took it: I got a job. I was allowed to try things, be creative, and within a couple of years, I was senior writer at a major agency. Five years later I met Frances, we formed a small marketing business of our own, got married, had a lovely child. And now live happily in suburban Maryland. All’s well that lands well, as they say.

And yet…

Once I got settled, the pull of England, the occasional tugs homeward, became more frequent. I found myself listening to more Vaughan Williams, more Britten and Holst than ever before. And I rediscovered meat puds and toad in the hole; even beans on toast made it back on the menu. I started to garden. To garden! (The world may think all Englishmen are itching to leap out of the closet but I think we’re more prone to come out of the woodshed in a pair of wellies.)

Anyhow, this Englishness grew. And now it knows no bounds. I even find myself riding my bike and singing along to the chorus of The English are Best. I’m glued to the telly whenever the most insipid period drama is aired. Just as long as it’s English. On the box recently, I heard someone say, “Oooh you are awful…but I like you!” And, quite suddenly, marvelous Dick Emery dug a smiley faced crease in my memory.

It gets worse.

I can’t hear Jerusalem without getting a wet glob in the eye. And Churchill’s wartime words embarrass me with a feeling of pride—or is it that odd, misunderstood emotion expats label as misplaced patriotism? I’ve started re-reading Mapp and Lucia, Saki, Somerset Maugham; and rediscovering the glories of Golding, Durrell, Fowles, and Bainbridge, to name but a few.

Time for tea? I found local shops that import PG Tips, even Typhoo! Assorted British sauces, pickles, sweets, and sundries. Gentleman’s relish? Piccalilli. You can get it all here. And I do.

Somehow, America has become a receptive, dimensional canvas cleverly shaped liked that familiar little spec in the North Atlantic. So I happily dip into a paint box labeled Albion and splogged on the oils in big thick swirls, brushing out the unpleasant bits from the green and pleasant. Yet, for all that, my picture of England isn’t as bland as one might expect. The colours ring true. They are as vibrant and lush as the music of England’s countryside, as dense as a sherry-soaked fruitcake, as majestic as our literature, as lyrical as our poetry, and as magical as a kid’s memory of a Christmas panto with Arthur Askey.

England means more to me now than it ever would have if I had stayed. Moving back, I think I might lose my exuberant imagining of the place I once called home. I would take it all for granted again. And long for other landscapes I would rather not imagine, let alone paint, let alone call home.

Originally from London’s East End, expat Denis Lipman is the author of the upcoming A Yank Back to England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns.

Paul Newman

I have been thumbing through some of the stirring stuff inscribed hereabouts, and jolly impressive it is to. In an effort to compete, (portenders ready …you might say), my first thought was to complain that I can never escape Englishness. I kid you not, I was incubating some gor-blimey pretentious metaphor in which Milton’s Satan stopped off to say …

“Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell“, …

This, seriously, was to illustrate the inescapability of one’s identity. Well thankfully you are saved from this nascent horror; I am off on quite another tack.

Here it is then….Years ago I sat in a Library reading the Miller’s Tale, yes I was only eight and already inhabiting the Middle English linguistic world. …….Ok ok, I was at ‘uni’, had no choice, and got a modern translation to save on swotting. Anyway, I got the only bit of Chaucer everyone knows. Absolom was thrusting his hot poker, “amidde the ers”, of Nicholas’ “toute” causing N, understandably enough, to cry, “water!”. The Landlord, you will recall, thinks the great flood has come and hilarity ensues. As I read I, “laughed out loud”.

Think on that for a moment; an idiotically dressed, and coiffed, 20th century student sending a LOL down the centuries to Geoffrey Chaucer. Englishman to Englishman.

You see, dear reader, in our dimly lit Anglo Saxon past, after battle, they feasted and re-told unbelievably tedious sagas about Sea monsters and stuff ….On the next hill, where I would be, they laughed at the whole thing, remarked on who had been the most cowardly, and admitted they would rather copulate with farm yard animals than fight.

I don’t say we should not soar above green vales to heroic strains of Elgar, or tease out any number of threads. Amongst all the full-body-waxing lyrical though, someone should at least try to conjure the merriness of Englishmen, finding the ridiculous often in what they love, and hate, most fervently.

Few, for example, have considered life and death with greater seriousness than John Donne, but in his Valediction Forbidding Mourning, a verse of terse spiritual and emotional strength, he still chucks in a knob gag for good measure ….

…It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home….

Nudge nudge eh, but let’s not over emphasise the bawdy. The exquisitely malicious observation of Jane Austen, the eye for foible of Charles Dickens, the affectionate despair we feel for Pooter, the endless verbal delight of PG Woodhouse, Churchill, Shaw, Cleese, Milligan, Rickie Gervais, where to start, where to end? It is part of us and I`d say an important part.

Why did we English establish Common Law so early, avoid revolution, religious slaughter (mostly), and muddle though in a manner the benighted foreigner can only envy? I suggest it is a sense of proportion, a deep reasonableness rather gentler than stern “Reason”.

To have sense of proportion is to find life and oneself at once serious and absurd. Ask yourself why a prat-fall is so enduringly funny? It’s the sight of man in the attitude of walking, when he is falling. Humour (he pontificated…) is a corrective to stiffness and renders the miserable po-faced preening tick powerless. For one thing our leaders, the constant butt of cruel satire, have been is comparatively decent.

Now this great Nation faces new challenges, threats to Liberty, free speech and our very right to be a people at all. Let us all hope we continue to say the unsayable, and laugh at our own prejudices whilst defending our values. If we do I have little doubt it will “Turn out nice” again.

Paul Newman ‘was’ the author of Newmania before he acquired three children.


I find it so difficult sometimes to define what it means to be myself let alone tackle questions of this weight! What does England mean to me, what does it mean to be English? Why, I suppose it’s a little bit like a reflex, a little like breathing: English is what I am; English is what I will always be.

For me it’s not about sport, or politics or any transitory passion; it really does rest on something altogether deeper. I love the English language, a love the beauty and the rhythm of simple English prose. Yes, I know the language is not exclusively ours any longer. It’s been launched into the world sometimes with uncertain-and unhappy-returns! But I would continue to look for Englishness, Englishness expressed through words, in what I like to call the original ‘mines’ of our language, our poetry and our literature. There they are before me: Langland and Chaucer; the Bible, both in William Tyndale’s translation and in the King James’ version; the Book of Common Prayer; the plays and poetry of Shakespeare, the Jacobean poets and more.

I’ve been working my way through The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. He’s a super writer, a true craftsman, expressing himself in simple, limpid prose. InEngland Your England part of a longer essay entitled The Lion and the Unicorn he analyses at some length what exactly it means to be English. Yes, a lot has changed since 1940 but a lot remains remarkably the same. The individuality is still there, the dislike of regimentation and officialdom, the suspicion of ‘ideology’ as something foreign, something un-English. These were the rocks against which Fascism and Communism floundered. It’s these same qualities that continue to make English people distrustful of identity cards or the European Super State ; of standardisation in any form.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that the English, with all of their idiosyncrasies, all of their baffling eccentricities, are simply beyond the comprehension of most foreigners. Karl Marx spent most of his life in this country in exile. Always expecting great things from the English proletariat, the most advanced in Europe, by the lights of his theory, he came to see that England was the one country in Europe with a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois working class as well as a bourgeois bourgeois! His last recorded words were “To the Devil with the British.”

Britishness? Ah, yes, now there is a problem. I grew up believing simply that Britishness and Englishness were more or less the same thing though I was very well aware that the Celtic nations had a separate and somewhat prickly identity. It’s been their assertiveness, their determination to be ‘themselves’, to govern themselves, that resulted in our present botched constitutional settlement, one that has really forced me to focus more specifically on simple Englishness. I no longer use British to identify myself other than to say that I have a British passport.

Yes, our present constitutional settlement is botched, badly thought-out and unfinished. It has raised more questions than it has answered, the question over England ’s political sovereignty above all, our right to manage our own domestic affairs without outside interference, interference by those who are not English. Where does England fit in the devolved United Kingdom ? I simply don’t know. There is, so far as I can tell, no great desire for a separate English parliament, but things cannot go on as they are indefinitely. It’s a house of cards which will fall, I believe, if we ever again have a Labour administration only kept in place by MPs from Scotland and Wales.

Sovereignty also raises the question of our position within the European Union. This is a touchy subject because I see considerable dangers in the current integrationist drift in European policy, dangers in the Lisbon Treaty for our future liberty. If we ever do become Airstrip One it will be largely thanks to the efforts of our own politicians, arguably more damaging than those of Philip II, Napoleon or Hitler.

I’m sure it comes no surprise that I’m a history student. And it is English history, our common heritage, which I believe defines us as a nation in the fullest sense. Our pride, our individuality, our idiosyncrasies, our distrust of foreign ideas and, yes, of foreigners, has largely been determined by our island story, by a slow evolution of a common culture. I simply refuse to accept that there is a single English person, admit it or not, who does no feel a stirring of the blood when hearing the great St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. It most assuredly stirs my blood, as does the speech of Elizabeth I at Tilbury. That’s Englishness, a dogged courage in the face of terrible odds. That’s my England.

My name is Anastasia; I’m twenty-three years old and a history student, shortly to begin work on a PhD in English history. My speciality is late Stuart England. My dedicated blog can be found at

Fiyaz Mughal

What does it mean to be English today?

It means that you are someone who feels at home within the UK and can feel proud about elements of our history, whilst feeling empowered enough to play a role as a citizen within the country. Basically, feeling English does not mean being related to a homogenous society but about feeling that you have a stake in the country and its past and future.

What do the English think of England?

Good question. I would like to believe that we are proud of where we have got as a country, though obviously in my opinion, our politicians have made some political decisions that I disagree with.
What do the English think of Britishness?

I believe that there are differing views on this. Some feel that the two are identical; some may feel that the two are distinct. However, some may associate Britishness with values and ideals and sometimes, I am afraid to say that xenophobia creeps into the agenda. Increasingly, the issue of values to Britishness has been proposed time and time again by politicians.

How do others see England and the English?

As being (1) quite formal or reserved (2) exclusive (3) wealthy (4) following rules or rules driven (5) some may see support for actions like the invasion of Iraq as being driven by the need for resources and being mandated by the public which was not exactly true (6) Having a rich history – though this can be seen in a positive and negative light depending on whether, for example, countries were colonised or not colonised.

Is Englishness a spiritual inheritance or does it only describe the condition of living in England?
In my opinion, it describes the condition of living in England . I am testament to that. I feel a part of the country even though the history of the country has clashed with my own ancestral history just 150 years ago. Soldiers of the rapacious East India Trading Company, who by defacto, did some of the bidding for the Government prior to the 1870’s, murdered and exiled many of my ancestral relatives in Mughal Delhi. If I was to believe in a spiritual inheritance in being English or Englishness, I could say that there was a spiritual inheritance to identity and whilst I believe that people may be receptive to their past ancestral histories, dwelling on just this fact can be dangerous.

Does Englishness have a nature or is there only history?

Both. I think that we can associate behaviours and traits to identities like being English or ‘Englishness.’ As I said earlier, there are also deep historical elements. I suspect that for migrants to England , there has to be some form of selective history absorption and this may sound contentious, but there have been times when the history of Britain and its actions have left deep scars on the international landscape. It is extremely difficult to just accept the complete history of Britain and its legacies across the world, some of which have led to wars and foreign policy catastrophes. Yet, there have also been many times when Britain has left positive legacies and where the English have generated and supported other peoples and nations.

Finally, I would like to add that there has been much talk about migrants and identity and about Englishness, etc. In my opinion, migrants from the Commonwealth such as from East Africa arrived in this country with a better knowledge of the culture and mental make up of residents because of the legacy of colonialism. For some politicians to assume that migrants are not aware of the ‘laws of the Land and how things are done in the UK ,’ is simplistic and not accurate.

Is Englishness a political or a cultural idea or is it both?


Is the cheapest form of pride national pride (as Schopenhauer thought) or is national pride essential to modern England?

I personally think that national pride is not essential to a modern Britain . Yet, it does play a role in inspiring people and that leads to actions that further promote the country which in turn inspire people. So it is cyclical. Therefore, it has a role, but it is not essential. More than anything, how we treat others and how we engage within a fast shifting global environment will make more difference to our country and how we are perceived. This I believe, is very important.

Where does England fit in the new, devolved United Kingdom?

It is learning to play a role as a partner with Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How does England connect with Europe?

It has a love hate relationship. We all love the holidays in Europe and enjoy the food and dare I say it, we all love the continental feel of Europe. Yet, there is also a feeling that we want to maintain our distance ideologically and in terms of identity. I personally feel that the future of England is firmly within Europe and playing a leading role within it. Putting one step in and then another step out makes us look as though we are not committed. We should be and with globalization affecting all countries, we will no doubt move towards the leading role in Europe.

What is the distinctive place of England in global culture?

We influence global culture in many ways. Language, football, music and research, though the latter and its influence is being overtaken by countries such as China and India . Even countries like Iran , with their investment in stem cell research, are potential competitors and mean that our research influence is slowly starting to have less of an impact.

Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI,
Cllr for Noel Park – London Borough of Haringey,
Adviser to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Interfaith and Preventing Radicalisation and Extremism. Member of the Federal Policy Committee – Liberal Democrats

Len Welsh

I was born in the thirties during a major recession, a time of hardship for the working class of whom my parents were but two, then one of two children I was oft times hungry like so many children in the East-end of London. The strange thing is that we never felt deprived, we were by and large happy kids enjoying simple pleasures like begging a Jam jar from a neighbour to pay the travelling Roundabout man for a ride and a chance to blow the Bugle carried on the horse drawn contraption. Other pleasures included worrying the life out of mum for a penny to go to the penny pictures, silent movies played in the local Church Hall which were mostly comedies featuring Charlie Chaplin , Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd with the odd one of Rin Tin Tin thrown in, total bliss until the next week came around. My part of London was a magical place, Libraries, a Museum and a host of Church Halls and play centres in Schools to attend in the early summer evenings, the visit of the India toffee man the Pigs trotter man and on Sundays the cries of the Shellfish man selling his wares, and once a year the Church, where we saw the penny pictures, would arrange a days outing to Loughton in Essex at the great cost of one penny to each child, to get a breath of country air whereupon most of us came back insect bitten but happy. Loughton became known to all and sundry as Lousy Loughton, we even used to sing a song “We’re going to Lousy Loughton” on the way there on the Chars a Bancs, for my younger readers that is pronounced “Charrabank”.

Poor as church mice but a happy childhood, not even Hitler dented it despite the fact I was evacuated like thousands of others. I couldn’t stand it though and came back home for Christmas and stayed, growing up though the Blitz, Buzz bombs and V2s. We, the by now young lads and lassies, still remained, by and large, happy as pigs in muck. England was paradise even during that period, we were amongst our own we knew who we were and how to behave, how to help others and how to give way to the ladies, none of the boys would have remained sitting on the bus or underground and leave a Lady standing such was the manner in which we were raised.

This was the England of my formative years, or rather the London of my early life for I knew only London and I knew my part of it well. London in those days was a collection of villages and to a degree some of it is to this day, one had a sense of moving out of your village if you strayed too far, a strange feeling it was too.

As time passed I saw some of the rest of England and was entranced by what I saw, beautiful countryside, attractive villages and towns, and people I felt at home with. I appreciated these factors even more after joining the Army in ’49 and after a spell abroad coming home. I knew that England was the only place I wanted to be, I felt comfortable like the comfort one feels on returning to the family home after a period away.
My England is not the one of green fields and cricket played on the village green, uplifting though they are. It is an England of cities that captivates me, they hold the history of this land in their very being. England holds many memories for me and has become part of me, she is my life, she made me what I am and looking back I can say with all honesty if I could have chosen where I was born it would have been London, England. Fate must have brought my paternal grandparents from the Emerald Isle to London, so fate is something I believe is real and something I have always believed in.

Yes I have Irish blood in my veins, but I am English. I am of England, she is mine and I am hers.

Leonard (Len) Welsh
Born in London, England; 1931 of an Irish father and English Mother
Married Iris in 1951, widowed 2001
Joined Army in 1949, demobbed 1954
4 Children, 5 Grandchildren, 3 Great grandchildren.
Employed since the Army in Local Government, until early retirement circa1986.

Jane Manley

I was born just before the war, in the Far East, where my parents were stationed. When Singapore fell, my mother fled with my sister and me and managed eventually to make it back to England. My father, however, remained to fight the Japanese. He was captured more or less straight away and spent the rest of the war in Changi Jail.

We, the lucky ones, made a home in Norfolk, scene of my earliest memories. Here we rode bicycles around the country lanes, my sister perched in a little chair over the back wheel of my mother’s bike, me wobbling behind. We walked to the farm each morning to collect our milk fresh from the cow, picked cowslips and apples and collected warm, brown eggs from the hens, fed on scraps from the kitchen. We ate a great deal of rabbit, I remember, and there was a little ritual my mother invented, of hiding the rabbit’s shoulder-blade bone, known for no reason I know of as the “saccaboney”, which we then eagerly searched for. Sometimes enemy planes droned overhead, picked out by searchlights from the American Air Force base not far away, and there was talk of bombs and Hitler and rationing and Mr. Churchill, to which we listened, uncomprehending but accepting. We knew we were safe and Daddy would come home one day.

He did come home, and after a short interval took the family back to Kuala Lumpur and a very different life of servants and ponies, swimming, tennis, polo, and being made to rest in the humid afternoon heat, reading our books – English children’s classics, of course: Black Beauty, The Railway Children, Swallows & Amazons, Anne of Green Gables (how we loved Anne!). England to us became Home. People talked of going Home on leave. Letters arrived from Home. One day we too would go Home. England was the place within us, the default place. There was never any question that we would end up anywhere else.

In due course we were indeed sent Home, to a boarding school deep in the Devon countryside. Here there were more ponies, gymkhanas, dens in the woods, wild flower competitions (know your dandelion from your coltsfoot!). We put on plays and Gilbert & Sullivan operas in the tiny, exquisite theatre of the Georgian country house. We went to church on Sundays. Here I first learned to love poetry, and my father gave me The Dragon Book of Verse. I knew most of it by heart. “Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen” and “The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!”. I came second in the Poetry Reading Competition, declaiming James Elroy Flecker to my listening schoolmates. We learned the history of England from Alfred and the Cakes, through 1066, Henry VIII and his wives, the Spanish Armada, the Great Fire of London and Victoria & Albert. It was a framework on which to build my sense of being, essential knowledge without which one could not be truly English.

Later I was sent to a larger, more serious school, where the history lessons delved a little deeper and the poems were longer. We read Jane Austen, George Eliot, Trollope, and were sent on long walks, whatever the weather. I loved English poetry and learned as much as I could by heart. It is still with me now, and I can think of no greater gift to be given at an impressionable age.

Much later, I married and my husband (a very English Englishman) took me to live in Italy. In those days you only had to say you were English for warm smiles to appear and handshakes to be offered. I felt privileged and proud and not a little complacent. England once again became Home. We loved Italy and lived there for many years, but again there was never any doubt that we would return to live in England eventually, as indeed we did.

However, the England we came back to was very different from the one we had left. Seismic changes were occurring in society. The old certainties were fast disappearing, the young had taken over, with new ideas that owed nothing to wisdom and experience. No one learned poems by heart any more; no one learned about the Kings & Queens of England or appeared to have any idea of how England came to be the country it is. They concreted over the countryside, killing the wild flowers and the songbirds, banned hunting, taxed the great estates into oblivion, not caring whether the people would be happy to have their society and their country changed for ever. No one ever asked us. There was no respect for others, no sense of history or tradition, no roots.

Is it still there, I wonder? Has England lost its cohesion, or does it still exist beneath the froth and bubble? Are the essential decency of the English working class, the sturdy moral values of the middle classes and the flair and self-confidence of the aristocracy still concepts we can believe in? Are we going to end up as a remote province of Europe, our national pride humbled, our lawmakers irrelevant? I can’t say – I don’t think anyone can. But there is without doubt a spirit of “Englishness” still alive, a feeling that we must not let it all go without a fight. There is so much at stake, so many centuries of of hard work and dedication, of principles and self-sacrifice, of courage and imagination. Let them do their worst! I think England will survive.

Jane blogs at ‘There’ll Always be an England’.

Mark Perryman

One of the peculiarities of Englishness is the denial of a national culture. Of course almost all cultures are derivative, drawing on a variety of sources. And the best have an appeal which is universalist, shaped by the breadth of their audience. There is a distinctly English contribution to punk, post-punk, two-tone ska, reggae and lovers rock, grime, jungle and raga, dance music, indie-rock, heavy metal, soul, rave and acid house. This isn’t to ignore particular contributions to each from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but why should we deny their Englishness either?

The Jam and the Clash, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths and Pulp, The Specials and Madness, Steel Pulse and Misty, Beth Orton, Asian Dub Foundation, So Solid Crew, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, Lily Allen and Estelle, each have been framed by their locality, from Woking, Southall and West London to Handsworth, Salford and Sheffield. A music that came out of a city in South Yorkshire or the West Midlands inevitably draws on influences outside of national boundaries. Some are the product of a disapora, an English variety of Afro-Caribbean reggae or ska, an English version of South Asian bhangra. But however variegated the origins and influences there remains an almost outright refusal to own up to the Englishness of the music. This is perhaps best summed up by early 1990s Britpop. In his superb chronicle of the era The Last Party John Harris details the major Britpop bands; Blur, Elastica, Oasis, Pulp, and Suede. Plus the seminal influence on them all of Paul Weller. The book was subtitled the demise of English rock.

In his introduction to the 2001 edition to England’s Dreaming music journalist Jon Savage details the mounting political contradiction, as well as the absences that it serves to obscure, of the so-called Britpop of Oasis and Blur. ‘The Union Jack-strewn Britpop did not reflect Britain’s multicultural reality but highlighted, almost exclusively, white rock groups from the South East. So it wasn’t Britpop – because dance music is mainstream pop – but Engrock. Yet this kind of unquestioning English superiority is under constitutional attack as never before.’ OK we’ll ignore Jon’s glaring omission of Northern England’s Oasis and Pulp but his point still holds. The failure to address formations of English culture serves too often not only to ignore the contribution of black, Asian and migrant cultures but also enforces an assumption that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland somehow don’t count. The English Brits do the job and sod the rest.

But devolution has begun to bust apart this cultural conspiracy of a Greater Englishness masquerading as Britishness. A conspiracy often justified by liberal commentators as somehow justifiable on the basis of its supposed “inclusiveness”. Go tell that to the Scots, Welsh and at least half of the Northern Irish too. In stark contrast Michael Bracewell was one of the first writers to detect the radical, unsettling, pluralist potential of coming to terms with England’s role in this broken-up culture. As jungle stations send respect to junglists whose identity is defined by little more than the names of towns – to Torquay, Carlisle, Ipswich, Wigan – there is the momentary sense, before that movement too becomes absorbed into the loop of cultural history, that England is being broadcast as an outlaw sonic sculpture.’ Rebel songs from the land of Robin Hood good-for-something banditry, just the thing to download on to your ipod and file under English.

Mark Perryman is the editor of the new book Breaking Up Britain : Four Nations after a Union. A unique collection of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish contributors, featuring key political activists from the nationalist parties, commentators and campaigners, academics and journalists. Each writer explores the change that the break-up demands in their own nation, but also discusses its impact upon the whole. Published by Lawrence and Wishart it is available from and all major outlets.

A FREE DOWNLOAD of Mark’s opening chapter ‘A Jigsaw State’ in Breaking Up Britain is available as a pdf from