Britishness/ Englishness
September 12/17
Britain as “state-nation”
The state identified not by ethnicity but by
state institutions such as Parliament and
the monarchy
British National Identity
No nationalism in Britain as the ground for
national identity—basically class society
until the end of the nineteenth century.
British national identity comes from its
attachment to institutions such as the
Parliament and the Crown, a nationalism of
the state rather than of the people
Britain as the Protestant nation
Britain portrayed itself as the defender of
the Protestant faith everywhere, ready to
stand against the armed might of Catholic
Europe such as Spain and France.
John Bull as the typical English
John Bull as a typical English
character invented 1712: Bull
was invented by the Scottish
mathematician and physician
John Arbuthnot as a
character in an extended
allegory that appeared in a
series of five pamphlets in
1712 and later in the same
year published collectively as
The History of John Bull; he
appeared as an honest
clothier, bringing action with
his linen-draper friend
Nicholas Frog (Holland)
against Lewis Baboon (Louis
XIV) for interfering with trade.
John Bull Caricature
English disdain for nationalism
England’s glory shone the brighter for
being reflected in a cause far loftier than
the advancement of national self-interest.
Like Spain at the time of the CounterReformation, or Russia in its conception of
itself as ‘the third Rome’, England’s
national identity was willingly buried in the
service of a missionary cause that was in
the fullest sense global.
The moment of ‘Englishness’
The end of nineteenth century
Nationalism of a cultural kind, emphasizing
common citizenship, cultural nationalism
emphasized common ethnicity.
The hallmarks of ethnicity are language,
religion, history, and blood or ‘race’.
England has a ‘soul’.
Sketches of Nationalist Movement
The cleaning up of the English Language,
and the establishment of a ‘received’,
authoritative manner of spelling and
speaking English – Oxford English
Dictionary on Historical Principles.
The ‘canon’ of English literature: English
culture, as its deepest level, is seen as
created by a series of great ‘national’
poets, dramatists, and novelists.
English literature as the expression of
its distinctive national qualities
Sincerity, individuality, concreteness, and
a sense of richness and diversity of life.
Romanticism as the hallmark of national
qualities: the English preference for feeling
over intellect, poetry over philosophy,
literature and history over social and
political thought, passion for the rural
The southern English countryside as
The Whig interpretation of English
history: ‘single progressive drama’
A self-congratulatory myth that portrayed
English national development in glowing
tones: the idea of the antiquity and
independence of the House of Commons;
the ‘myth of Magna-Carta’, as the
foundation of the liberties of all free-born
Englishmen; the belief in a tradition of
constitutional rule, limiting monarchy,
stretching unbroken from the Middle Ages.
The rise and fall of Englishness in
the twentieth century
The rise of the new Labour
‘Little Englander’
Englishness as an embattled concept and

Britishness/ Englishness