on 4 April 2001
While the contributors explore their own widely varying interpretions of what it is to be English or of English descent, and you will not agree with them all, there is a common thread running throughout this series of essays. It is that whatever happens to England, whatever happens in this age of globalisation, you will always be English. That Englishness is not in the "Land of Hope and Glory" British sense, nor in that of the football fan. It is in the knowledge that our ancestors who as far back as what is often ignorantly called the "Dark Ages" created an England, our language etc, and unique attitudes which will always be be with us and cannot be taken from us. Just as peoples of other nations may hold a quiet pride in their roots, so should we in ours.
on 19 February 2001
This is an interesting read providing much background material to the English national heritage. However, the contributions from the various individual authors, although informative in their own right, do not complement each other and there is therefore a 'fragmented' feel to the whole book. The views expressed on Nations and Nationalism are especially relevant to the current problems facing the English's attempts to define themselves in view of the likely dissolution of the Union. Disappointingly, this book will not help the reader to discover the meaning of 'Englishness' and does not successfully address the place of Englishness in the future.
on 24 April 2001
The seven writers included here are all positive and informed about the English identity. Underlying all the contributions is the question -what is a Nation? For me the most interesting answer was given by Tony Linsell. He points out that many "use the word state and nation as if they are interchangable". The word nation, however, is far from a synonym for state. Just ask the Kurds or Tibetans. Linsell argues that kinship is one factor which determines membership of a nation. He draws attention to the fact that the US Government used ancestry to establish membership of an Indian nation in dealing with land rights claims.
Many people confuse "British" identity with nationhood in our country. Being British is "not a national identity but a civic identity". This confusion has, in my view, been cultivated over the years for State purposes. It has encouraged people to identify with the aims of the State and establishment. If you start to understand that the State does not merely serve and reflect the interests of the people and nation you become aware of the possibility of conflict between the two - Nation against State.
Of course English people are becoming more aware of identity questions. They are challenged without by the growth in power of international economic and political structures which question even a British identity and from within by Welsh and Scottish disaffection with the Union. I fear that at present the identity created in response will be bitter, twisted and reactionary. It need not be like this and it is people like the contributors to this work who may make a difference to the outcome.
I would have liked to see more debate within the book with some people questioning whether the renewal of English identity was practical or desirable. I suspect, however, that the publishers felt that there was no shortage of that type of work available!