The Empire and Britishness
English nationalism is a more slippery concept than might be imagined. As Kumar (2003) persuasively argues, for the English, presiding over an empire, there was no distinction made between being English and being British. In the global world of the British Empire, to be British was sufficient. It also enabled the Scots and Welsh to be co-opted into the British identity and to play key roles in imperial Britain.
But it is clear that until relatively recently (the last 20 years), with the increasing devolution to the Celtic nations, and the rise of a more aggressive Scottish ethno-nationalism, English nationalism has been a subdued affair. The even more recent rise in popularity of UKIP – an essentially right-wing English nationalist party – has drawn attention to demands for an English parliament.
As Kumar suggests – despite UKIP’s appeal in both some suburban and rural middle-class areas and some socially and economically deprived working class enclaves – the vision of Englishness presented is taken from the 1920s:
“It is an England that is rural or small-town, white, male, middle or upper-middle class, and fearful of change and the challenges of a global, multi-cultural world” (Kumar, 2003).
This latter-day, English nationalism appears to be being forged by a challenge from the nationalism in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, Welsh nationalism) and a fear of globalisation. This pressure and tension is exacerbated, for some English nationalists, by the fact of the UK’s membership of the EU, and their antipathy towards it.
Source: LSE BREXIT – Nostalgia, xenophobia, anti-neoliberalism: the roots of Leave’s nationalism
Duncan Sayer gave a lecture to close the Sutton Hoo Society AGM this year, and his talk was fascinating: outlining the many different methods used in archaeology today to understand familial, cultural, and socio-political ties or motives that inform burial practice.
Another article of his has been in my ‘open tabs’ on my phone for a while, one that I keep returning to. Would recommend.
The idea that there is a common Anglo-Saxon ancestry based on biology is gaining currency among some right-wing and religious groups in the UK and US.In the UK, the new leader of the UK Independence Party, Henry Bolton, suggested in a radio interview in October that “in certain communities the indigenous Anglo-Saxon population is nowhere to be seen”
Source: Why the idea that the English have a common Anglo-Saxon origin is a myth, by Duncan Sayer.
In all these instances, academic historians have either been sidelined, or have become the victims of politically motivated onslaughts. Still, the disputes per se are not a late modern phenomenon. Similar debates occur in any society that records its past. They form part of historical culture. Having a past and knowing it was considered to be a mark of civilisation. But where did this need for a past come from?
Source: Why the past is disputed and academic historians (don’t) matter | OUPblog
One for the wishlist…
“Wolfe is a modern retelling of the story of Beowulf, which relocates the action to Texas in the late 19th Century. When a strange, beguiling creature is found to have slaughtered first the cattle of a lonely ranch, then one of its labourers, the fate of the locals is placed in the hands of an out-of-towner, a calm and confident young man by the name of Billy Wolfe.”
Source: Wolfe and Other Poems by Donald Mace Williams – Wundor Store
British neo-folk art has seen a renaissance in recent years, and now TV and radio are getting in on the act with psychedelic takes on Albion’s folklore
Source: From Britannia to The Wicker Man: the welcome return of folk horror | Television & radio | The Guardian