English national identity

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A national identity of the English as the people or ethnic group dominant in England dates to the Anglo-Saxon period. The establishing of a single English ethnic identity dates to at least AD 731, as exemplified in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the construction of Offa's Dyke, becoming a national identity with the unification of the Kingdom of England in the ninth and tenth centuries, and changing status once again in the eleventh century after the Norman Conquest, when Englishry came to be the status of the subject indigenous population.[1][2]

From the eighteenth century, the terms 'English' and 'British' began to be seen as interchangeable to many of the English.[3]

While the official United Kingdom census does record ethnicity, English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British is a single tick-box under the "White" heading for the answer to the ethnicity question asked in England and Wales (while making the distinction of white Irish).[4][5]

Although Englishness and Britishness are used synonymously in some contexts,[6] the two terms are not identical, and the relation of each to the other is complex. Englishness is often a response to different national identities within Britain, such as Scottishness, Irishness, Welshness and Cornishness.[7]

Sometimes Englishness is thought to be encapsulated in terms of a particular relation to sport: fair play, for instance. Arguably, England's "national games" are football and, particularly, cricket. As cricket historian Dominic Malcolm argues, the link between cricket and England's national identity became solidified through literature. Works such as James Love's "Cricket: an heroic poem" and Mary Mitford's "our Village," along with Nyren's "cricketers of my Time" and Pycroft's "The Cricket Field," purported to identify the characteristics of cricket with the notional characteristics of English society, such as pragmatism, integrity, and independence.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brady, Lindy. Constructing Identity in Anglo-Saxon Literature: Review of Current Scholarship (2016)
  2. ^ Morris, Marc. The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England (2021)
  3. ^ Smith, Anthony (13 May 2005). "'Set in the Silver Sea': English National Identity and European Integration" (PDF). Workshop: National Identity and Euroscepticism: A Comparison Between France and the United Kingdom. University of Oxford. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Ethnic group". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  5. ^ Forrest, Adam (3 August 2021). "David Lammy questions why 'Black English' is not a census option". The Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2023.
  6. ^ "South East Wales Public Life - Dr Gwynfor Evans". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  7. ^ MacPhee, Graham; Prem Poddar, eds. (2010). Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective. New York: Berghahn Books. pp. 1–25. ISBN 978-1-84545-320-6.
  8. ^ Malcolm, Dominic (2012). Globalizing Cricket: Englishness, Empire and Identity. London: Bloomsbury. p. 34. ISBN 9781849665612.

Further reading[edit]

  • Breward, Christopher; Conekin, Conekin; Cox, Caroline (2002). The Englishness of English dress. Berg Publishers. ISBN 978-1-85973-528-2.
  • Siobhain Bly, Calkin (2009). Saracens and the Making of English Identity: The Auchinleck Manuscript. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-80309-0.
  • Colls, Robert (1987). Englishness: politics and culture 1880-1920. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7099-4562-8.
  • Featherstone, Simon (2009). Englishness: twentieth century popular culture and the forming of English identity. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-2365-5.
  • Harris, Stephen J. (2003). Race and Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon Literature. Taylor & Francis.
  • Helmreich, Anne (2002). The English garden and national identity. Modern architecture and cultural identity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59293-2.
  • Langford, Paul (2001). Englishness identified: manners and character, 1650-1850. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-924640-3.
  • Rogers, David; McLeod, John (2004). The revision of Englishness. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-6972-7.
  • Spiering, Menno (1992). Englishness: foreigners and images of national identity in postwar literature. Rodopi. ISBN 978-90-5183-436-9.
  • MacPhee, Graham; Prem Poddar (2010). MacPhee, Graham and Prem Poddar (ed.). Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective. New York: Berghahn Books. pp. 1–25. ISBN 978-1-84545-320-6.

External links[edit]