Thursday, February 02, 2006

On Britishness, Englishness and Kipling

With a somewhat belated response to the jelly-bellied flag-flapper and his ludicrous spoutings about the manifold glories of Britishness, I have always though that the concept of Britishness is and has always been a fudge, designed to create an Imperial construct that could unify the British Isles with a view to supporting aggressive expansion (but in a good way natch). It is not, therefore, surprising to find that the Scots, the Welsh and the White English identify themselves forst and foremost by their regional identity and only subsequently by their Britishness.

I would argue that English, Welsh and Scottish are primarily ethnic descriptions while British is national. My fiancee was born in Australia, and acquired British citizenship only shortly after the Test match defeat at Lords (I think it was this that tipped the balance actually). While happy to confirm her Britishness, she is much less comfortable when described as English.

I feel a good deal of national pride in both my Englishness and my Britishness, tending to agree with Cecil Rhodes that "to be born English is to draw first prize in the lottery of life." I wouldn't go so far as Lord Curzon, who believed that the British Empire was 'the greatest unalloyed force for good the world has ever known,' but I incline very much closer to Niall Ferguson's view on the subject that John Hobson's. One thing I am sure of though, Brown has done more to disassemble any sense of united Britishness than he can hope to make up now.


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