Little Englander

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"Little Englander" is an epithet applied in criticisms of English people who are regarded as xenophobic and/or overly nationalistic and are often accused of being "ignorant" and "boorish". It is sometimes applied to opponents of globalism, multilateralism and internationalism; for instance those who are against membership of the European Union. Originally it applied to a wing of the Liberal Party opposed to expansion of the British Empire in the 19th century, who wanted "England" to extend no further than the borders of the United Kingdom.


The "Little England" movement originated among manufacturers in Manchester, supported by journalists such as Goldwin Smith, who objected to the protectionist stance of Canada exemplified by the tariff increase of 1859. They resented paying taxes to defend a colony that took few British goods, when it could be absorbed by the United States which was an independent country and their best customer outside Europe. Canada had some importance as a supplier of wheat and timber to Britain, but her climate meant that she could never supply Manchester's mills with their main raw material of cotton. There was also a social element, the Manchester School resented the Empire for providing sinecures for the sons of the aristocracy when the same money could be used for tax breaks to industrialists at home.[1]

The Little England stance was adopted by a wing of the Liberal Party typified by William Gladstone (1809-1898), who opposed many of Britain's military adventures in the late 19th century. It is particularly associated with opposition to the Second Boer War (1899–1902). For example, Arthur Ponsonby wrote of the Liberal leader Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's opposition to the Boer War: "The impression one got of him from the Press in those days was… that he was an unpatriotic Little Englander".[2]

In literature[edit]

The term "little England" predates its political usage; the expression "this little England" was used in the Gunpowder Day sermon of the English Puritan preacher Thomas Hooker (5 November 1626).[3] It is also used in Shakespeare's play Henry VIII (1601), when the Old Lady tells Anne Bullen,

"In faith, for little England / You'd venture an emballing: I myself would for Carnarvonshire"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Andrew (2008). British Businessmen and Canadian Confederation: Constitution Making in an Era of Anglo-Globalization. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. pp. 24–27. ISBN 9780773575004. 
  2. ^ F. W. Hirst, In The Golden Days (London: Frederick Muller, 1947), p. 253.
  3. ^ p.62 of The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology, edited by Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. 438 pages.