Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biographies/2007-2008 archive: British nationality

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British, or English, Scottish, Welsh, (Northern) Irish?

NOTE: The latest discussion (on the 'UK nationality' guideline/essay) is below this archive.

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

This is the current proposed wording of the clarification to the guideline:

The opening passage should give: ... Nationality (In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable.)

Usage notes:
3a. Wherever possible, provide evidence of a person's nationality in a note.
3b. Where there is evidence of a person's preference as to how his or her nationality should be indicated, this should be respected and the evidence referred to in a note.
3c. Otherwise, if there is other sufficient, undisputed evidence of a person's nationality, such as birth and long residence in a country, nationality of that country may be stated.
3d. If there is no clear evidence of a person's nationality (e.g., if a person was born in one country and lived and worked partly in that country and partly in another), no nationality should be stated. No assumption regarding a person's nationality based on his or her place of birth or residence should be made.
3e. British nationals – The United Kingdom is comprised of four constituent countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Although persons from these countries hold British nationality, there is consensus that if usage note 3b or 3c applies, a person should be described as "English", "Northern Irish (or Irish)", "Scottish" or "Welsh", as the case may be. In other cases, the person should be described as "British".
3f. Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability.

(The underlining will be omitted from the final version.) If you have comments on it, please add them to the end of the discussion thread. Cheers, Jacklee. Updated on 18:24, 24 October 2007 (UTC).

Hi, this issue has probably cropped up umpteen times, but I don't know where to find a definitive answer for it. For, say, a writer who has British nationality and was born in Cardiff, Wales, should she be billed as a "Welsh author" or as a "British author from Wales" or "of Welsh extraction", which is what I've been doing? I ask this question, because some edits I made were recently amended on the basis that there was apparently "common consensus". I was referred to the Featured Article "Charles Darwin", but there was no discussion on its talk page on the matter, and I would think that the "other stuff exists" rule applies here. If there is a consensus on the matter, could it be added to this part of the Manual of Style? Cheers, Jacklee 13:08, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

Well, a person from Wales isn't really of Welsh extraction. They're Welsh. "Welsh extraction" implies that they're of Welsh heritage but don't actually come from Wales themselves. Neither would I put they were British from Wales, which sounds rather odd. They're either British or Welsh. Either is acceptable and both are accurate. My preference is usually to put English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish if it's indisputable which they are (i.e. if they were born in that country and there's no suggestion that they identified with any other) and British otherwise. If you put their birthplace in the body of the article then the reader can draw their own conclusions. In any case, whatever you put in your example someone will come round sooner or later and change it to Welsh. -- Necrothesp 14:52, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

Actually, a person from, say, Cardiff, is not British or Welsh, he or she is both. I would have thought that it is better to put that a person is "British... from Wales" as such a person would have British nationality. I don't know whether there are people from other nations where this issue crops up: "Catalan painter", "Florentine sculptor", "Quebecois scientist"? I suppose I don't mind either way, but the preferred approach should be decided upon through consensus and mentioned this in this part of the Manual of Style. Incidentally, I don't think it's a good reason to make a decision one way or another just because other editors are going to come along and amend articles in certain ways. If that were the case, we wouldn't have any guidelines on the use of copyrighted images, because editors keep inserting them into articles. :-) Cheers, Jacklee 15:54, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

Yes, they are both. That's what I meant. However, it is not normal to say a person is British and Welsh or British from Wales (or England, Scotland or Northern Ireland) - for instance, I would describe myself as British or English depending on the context, but I would certainly never describe myself as British and English or British from England. British is my legal nationality, English describes my country and culture of origin and is how I happen to prefer to identify myself. Informally, some people prefer to describe themselves as one, some the other, some are equally happy with both. I agree that guidelines should not be dictated by nationalists, but it is still the case that whatever you put a nationalist will come along and change it to their preferred version. This has been happening since Wikipedia was born and no amount of discussion is likely to change it. It's not an argument against guidelines, merely a statement of fact. -- Necrothesp 16:16, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Surely the problem here is that "Welsh" or "English" is indeed about (in Necrothesp's words) how "some people prefer to describe themselves". The difficulty is in finding the evidence for their preference. Simply being born in one of the regions of the UK is insufficient, because it tells us nothing about that preference. Where there is no evidence, shouldn't "British" be the default? Bluewave 16:24, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
No British shouldn't be the default, as its not accurate as to how many, indeed, most people in the UK would describe themselves. I agree that being born someone is no sign of nationality, if Sean Connery had been born in, say, Newcastle because his parents were on holiday at the time, that would not make him English. He's clearly Scottish. With most people it is easy to know what they are, with those that arent, then British is good. But we should not have people going round en-masse changing to British, which is what User:Darkieboy236 has been doing. And the reason I exampled Darwin was that as a featured article had there been a massive problem with English, it would have been brought up in the review. It wasnt. In addition, we use English/Scottish/Welsh categories. We have them for a reason. I think that most people on Wiki accept English/Scottish/Welsh, but every now and again people come along on a crusade to change them all to British.--UpDown 16:48, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that "With most people it is easy to know what they are". Do we honestly know that Darwin (the original example) regarded himself as English, rather than British? Bluewave 17:09, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Lets look at the facts. Darwin has born in England, to English parents. He lived in England all his life, he died in England. This is how we know. In the same way we known Sean Connery is Scottish, or Tom Jones Welsh. As I say below, the UK is made up of four constituent countries. The 3 on Great Britain all have long histories as indepedent nations and distinct cultural indenties. The union of Crown and Parliament has not changed this. --UpDown 17:42, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Just because someone was born, lived and died in England, it does not necessarily mean they would regard their nationality as English rather than British. An ICM poll[1] concluded that 19% of the people polled in England regarded themselves as British, not English, whereas 11% were English, rather than British. The great majority regarded themselves as some combination of the two. I don't accept that there is a simple test for Englishness. Bluewave 07:20, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
There is no "simple test", but we can use our common sense and intelligence. --UpDown 18:48, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

Bluewave's suggestion seems to be a sensible and pragmatic one. It will be difficult in most instances to find evidence for how people prefer to describe their "culture of origin", as Necrothesp puts it. If there is such evidence, then the Wikipedia article should use the preferred mode of description and refer to the evidence in a footnote. Otherwise, the default should be the nation that the person is from. Yes, there will always be editors who will make changes like the one we're talking about, but perhaps a guideline on the matter in the Manual of Style will help. At least it is a standard that editors can refer to, rather than reliance on unreferenced statements that this is a matter of "common consensus". Cheers, Jacklee 16:39, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

I've just realized that this guideline currently states, in the "Opening paragraph" section, that a person's "nationality" should normally be stated. A note continues: "In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable. Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability." Does this suggest that there is in fact a consensus, in the example we've been talking about, in favour of "British" rather than "English", "Scottish", "Welsh" or "Irish"? If so, it would seem to me that a good compromise would be, for instance, "British... from Scotland". Cheers, Jacklee 16:45, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

No I don't believe it does. The UK is made up of "four consistuent countries". Each one is a nationality. British is the legal citizenship, not nationality.--UpDown 16:48, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Also, note further town when talking about titles in says "English sailor" when referring to Dame Ellen MacArthur. --UpDown 16:50, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

I accept that the United Kingdom consists of "four constituent countries" (see "United Kingdom") and that at least the three countries that make up Great Britain had long histories as independent nations and distinct cultural identities, as UpDown points out. However, the fact is that following the various unions of the countries they are no longer independent nations but a single nation: the United Kingdom. I'm not convinced that it is right to say that a person born in, say, England has "English nationality". The article "British nationality law" explains the meaning of nationality, and nowhere does it state that British nationals from each of the four countries in the UK respectively have English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish nationality.

I don't suppose there is a problem with using "English", "Scottish", "Welsh" or "Northern Irish" if the subject of a biographical article was born in a particular UK country and spent most of his or her life there. However, what if a person was born in Edinburgh but was raised in London and lived and worked there most of her life? Would it be accurate to call her Scottish (or English for that matter)? The fact is, without more evidence it is not possible to make a judgment call. Putting the person down as "British" avoids this problem.

In fact, if a person was born in one country (say, New Zealand) but lived for most of his life in another country (say, the UK), and it is not known for sure whether he has taken on citizenship of the second country, editors may have no choice but to avoid all mention of nationality or citizenship until more facts come to light.

As I said earlier, I am happy with either using "British" or "English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish" (though I lean towards "British"), but feel there should be some consistency. At the moment, the Manual of Style guideline is not very precise. It says, "In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable" [emphasis added]. Some consensus needs to be reached on this issue, and I would then suggest that the guideline be updated with a specific usage note concerning the UK.

Finally, I don't think that relying on the fact that "Charles Darwin" was passed as a Featured Article helps us resolve the matter. There is no indication on its talk page that the issue was discussed. The editor who passed the article could simply not have thought about it. Also, just because there are categories such as Category:English writers and Category:Scottish actors (which are perfectly fine) doesn't really, in my view, resolve the issue of whether a person should be described in the article itself as "British". There are also "British" categories. Cheers, Jacklee 21:50, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

As I have said before (not sure whether here, but I've certainly said it), not all people will fit the English/Scottish/Welsh for whatever reason. And for those people we put British. But these people are in the minority I believe. The problem is there cannot be consistency, and we can't avoid that. Putting British on everyone is not realistic or a good reflection for the reasons I've said before. And as you say not everyone can be English/Welsh/Scottish. We have to accept that we cannot have a blanket policy on this. Our policy should be we use our sensible judgement in each article. I am also strongly against "British actor from England". This I think is confusing and unclear. They should be either a British actor or an English actor, not a mixture of both. And the categories do matter. They are child categories of British, and should be used and British not if possible. My point is if, for the sake of argument, Ioan Gruffudd is in Welsh categories then Welsh should be at the top, not British. It's consistent for one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by UpDown (talkcontribs) 18:48, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
It would be so much simplier to have them all as British, so much easier. Afterall, it's the United Kingdom, not the sorta United Kingdom. GoodDay 20:21, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
Actually my understanding is that the nationality of those from Northern Ireland is different because of the Good Friday Argeement - legally individuals from Northern Ireland can legally be recognised as Irish, British or both - this makes the situation different from others in the United Kingdom.--Vintagekits 20:41, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
It can be very confusing for outsiders. I'm Canadian, so the usage of English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish to me, would be the same as using British Columbian, Albertan, Quebecer, Ontarian etc'. GoodDay 20:46, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
No I don't think it would be. England/Scotland/Wales are known as countries, with their own sport teams, long histories as individual countries, cultures etc. The Canadian states are not countries or nations. --UpDown 07:37, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Like it or not, they're all British. GoodDay 20:53, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

I don't think you can have a hard and fast rule. Sean Connery, who is of Irish extraction, presumably has a British passport and lives in the Bahamas should probably be referred to as Scottish. Winston Churchill should probably be referred to as British. If the emphasis is on culture, as with most writers, their cultural identity is probably more important than their passport; so it is likely that Scottish (etc.) will be more appropriate than British. But the decision should be based on how they identify themselves or are generally identified by others, not on any nationalistic point of view of the person editing the article.--Boson 21:04, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

It still stinks though. It's like saying the people of the UK are unified, yet not unified. It's quite frustrating. GoodDay 21:30, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

I honestly do not see what is so confusing or unclear about the formula "British author... from Scotland". I would have thought that that was an acceptable compromise between simply "British" and "English/Northern Irish (or Irish: see "Northern Ireland#Citizenship and identity")/Scottish/Welsh". It is not the case that a person is either British or Scottish and not both. Quite the opposite, such is person is certainly both British and Scottish. I would propose the following clarification of the rule:

The opening passage should give: ... Nationality (In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable.)

Usage notes:
3a. Wherever possible, provide evidence of a person's nationality in a note.
3b. Where there is evidence of a person's preference as to how his or her nationality should be indicated, this should be respected and the evidence referred to in a note.
3c. Otherwise, if there is other sufficient, undisputed evidence of a person's nationality, such as long residence in a country, nationality of that country may be stated.
3d. If there is no clear evidence of a person's nationality (e.g., if a person was born in one country and lived and worked partly in that country and partly in another), no nationality should be stated. No assumption regarding a person's nationality based on his or her place of birth or residence should be made.
3e. British nationals – The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If usage note 3b applies, a person should be described as "English", "Northern Irish (or Irish)", "Scottish" or "Welsh", as the case may be. In other cases, the person should be described as "British from England/Northern Ireland/Scotland/Wales".
3f. Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability.

Comments and suggestions for improvement please, particularly regarding notes 3c, 3d and 3e. Cheers, Jacklee 23:30, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

As I say above I strongly disagree with the above. I think using "from England/" is deeply misleading and also sounds awful! I think the above is designed knowing that for many finding a reptuable source for English etc would be difficult, meaning many would wrongly be called English. I don't believe we can have a rule for everything, and this is one of those we can't for. We have to use our reasoned judgement. Frankly its a lot easier than you are making out. --UpDown 07:37, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
If somebody is "British from England" then they are English - the two terms are synonymous, but the former looks weird and would never be used in normal speech. If there is confusion about their nation of origin then they are not "British from England" but simply British. Is someone who was born in England but grew up in Wales and then moved back to England "British from England"? That's merely their country of birth. They might identify as English or Welsh (or maybe both) or simply as British. In this case it is far better to put English or Welsh if they are known to express a specific preference or just British otherwise. If they were born in England and have lived in England all their lives then they are English - that's a fact and their preference is fairly irrelevant, just as we wouldn't list somebody as a "citizen of the world" (which is how some people describe themselves). -- Necrothesp 07:50, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Thats a good point about "citizen of the world"!--UpDown 11:56, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

I feel strongly that we need a guideline on this. It's no good saying "we have to use our reasoned judgment", because my reasoned judgment told me (wrongly, according to you), that it would be better to list certain persons as "British" rather than as "English" or "Welsh", which was your preference. If a guideline is not developed, other editors are going have this debate over and over again. All right, what about this?

The opening passage should give: ... Nationality (In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable.)

Usage notes:
3a. Wherever possible, provide evidence of a person's nationality in a note.
3b. Where there is evidence of a person's preference as to how his or her nationality should be indicated, this should be respected and the evidence referred to in a note.
3c. Otherwise, if there is other sufficient, undisputed evidence of a person's nationality, such as birth and long residence in a country, nationality of that country may be stated.
3d. If there is no clear evidence of a person's nationality (e.g., if a person was born in one country and lived and worked partly in that country and partly in another), no nationality should be stated. No assumption regarding a person's nationality based on his or her place of birth or residence should be made.
3e. British nationals – The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Although persons from these countries hold British nationality, there is consensus that if usage note 3b or 3c applies, a person should be described as "English", "Northern Irish (or Irish)", "Scottish" or "Welsh", as the case may be. In other cases, the person should be described as "British".
3f. Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability.

(The underlining will be omitted from the final version.) In this way, only if it is completely unclear which part of the UK a person is from will he or she be called "British". In other cases, "English/(Northern) Irish/Scottish/Welsh" will be used. Cheers, Jacklee 12:34, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Why can't we just say British, and leave it at that? British from Wales? That's like Canadian from Alberta. GoodDay 13:20, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
I hate to sound patronising, but User:GoodDay if you don't understand the difference between UK/England and Canada/Alberta then I suggest you do some reading up on our articles. There is a huge difference.--UpDown 17:54, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
The UK is divided into constituent countries and Canada is divided into provinces & territories. GoodDay 20:50, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
That sounds a good idea but is probably unimplementable because of the strong feelings it will raise. As far as I know, "British" is the only one that has any legal validity or verifiability, in the UK or anywhere else. Someone becomes British by meeting certain legal conditions. On the other hand, "English", "Scottish" or "Welsh" describes what some believe to be their cultural identity. There is no verifiable test of this, and there is nothing to stop any British person deciding that they are Welsh one day and Scottish the next. Where someone is particularly associated with the cultural identity of one of the countries, there is some point in using the more specific terms: Sean Connery and Tom Jones have been mentioned already. However, at the moment, Wikipedia has got the balance wrong and categorises the great majority of British people as Scottish, Welsh or English, rather than British. We know from the ICM poll that I cited above that a large proportion of people in the UK say that their nationality is British, and this is simply not reflected in Wikipedia at present. Bluewave 14:39, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Have made a slight amendment to the proposed new guidelines above. I hope they represent an adequate compromise position. Cheers, Jacklee 16:50, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
WP:MOSFLAG states we should only ever use the sovereign "upper" nationality in infoboxes (so British in this case). A compromise may be that the lead uses sub-British nationality, whilst the infobox does not. -- Jza84 · (talk) 17:04, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Patrick Pearse, for obvious reasons, doesn't use the B-word, or the flag. There's no reason why every article needs to have a nationality stated, either in the lead in words, or through some poxy flag icon in an ugly infobox. If you don't know, don't say. Angus McLellan (Talk) 17:21, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Use of flag icons isn't really the issue here, but I accept what WP:MOSFLAG says about the association between flags and nationality. Cheers, Jacklee 17:27, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's snowing in the United Kingdom. --Breadandcheese 17:19, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Actually, with the revised proposed usage notes (see the top of this section), I thought we're quite close to a reasonable compromise. Cheers, Jacklee 17:27, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
For one, it seems to have been drafted with little or no understanding of the problems arising here. Firstly, the UK is made up of four constituent countries - 'four countries' is controversial and is not used on Wikipedia in favour of the former usage. Secondly, the idea of expanding the localised nationalities is ridiculous in the context of people who are clearly primarily defined as being British. --Breadandcheese 17:51, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
OK, have amended the proposed guideline to read "constituent countries". For the reasons given by Bluewave above, I don't think we're going to get consensus to use "British" across the board, so the guideline is a compromise that recognizes that many people identify culturally as "English/(Northern) Irish/Scottish/Welsh". If there's evidence that a particular person wishes to be known as "British", then by all means that should be indicated, in line with usage note 3b. Cheers, Jacklee 18:24, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm amazed ... I think we may have a guideline!! The second proposal sits fine with me. I especially like "3c.", which I think most UK people would we be able to go in to. As long as the following "If there is no clear evidence of a person's nationality (e.g., if a person was born in one country and lived and worked partly in that country and partly in another), no nationality should be stated" doesn't apply to actors like Sean Connery who, while obviously, Scottish, don't like in Scotland, then I'm happy. --UpDown 17:54, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
--Obviously identifies as Scottish, though is of Irish ancestry! I'm being mischeivous - forgive me! -- Jza84 · (talk) 12:47, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

The latest proposal looks fine to me. . . .LinguisticDemographer 17:31, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

This was discussed a month or two ago on the proposed and rejected UK MOS. On that occasion, it was felt that the only reason for the proposed MOS was a thinly veilled attempt by some editors to have all UK nationals described as "British". (There is an air of nationalist politics blowing in that direction at the moment.)

The sticking problem then was that even though most people don't explicity declare to be English/Scottish/etc. to the exception of British, the normal way of describing people from the UK is still, for the most part, in those terms. A blanket description of everyone as British, with the exception of declared Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists (which in effect is what it would mean) is quite abnormal.

The proposal above falls into exacly the same trap. --sony-youthpléigh 18:53, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

I think that the guideline looks reversed and that we should only use British if the note 3b applies and that the appropriate constituent country should be used in all other cases. Keith D 19:55, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
I'd go with that. --UpDown 08:01, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
So am I right that this applies to lead sections and prose, but we maintain "British" in the infobox per policy? (No flags for any). -- Jza84 · (talk) 12:47, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

No, because there is no policy about insisting on "British" in the infobox. Lurker (said · done) 13:38, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
This still stinks, the UK's division (constituent countries) shouldn't be getting special treatment. Italy's people are Italians (not Nepalese, Scillian etc) , France' people are French (not Normans etc). GoodDay 13:44, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Giving up on this discussion, there's too much nationalism involved. (Northern) Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh peoples seem reluctant to have British put ahead of their historic nationalities (which IMHO is frustating, but existant). GoodDay 14:02, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
This seems to imply that those who use the constituent country nationality are nationalists, but those who use "British" are not. If you want to leave a debate, please do so without implying that those who disagree with you are being unreasonable- it's not very constructive. Lurker (said · done) 14:05, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Sorry for my 'slight temper flare', I'm just frustrated with the whole thing. And you're correct, I shouldn't be leaving this discussion in a huff, my apologies. GoodDay 14:12, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
If you do as you propose, and make the default "English/Scots etc", you are ignoring the fact that only 22% of people in England regard themselves as more English than British and 50% of people in Scotland think they are more Scottish than British (assuming the ICM poll is representative). And, by the way, I don't think I'm a "vociferous advocate of the Union": I really don't much care about the Union but do find it odd that almost no-one mentioned in Wikipedia seems to be of British nationality. Bluewave 13:58, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
In fairness, that is only one opinion poll. --UpDown 16:16, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

This is not simply an issue for the United Kingdom

On the "taking things to their logical conclusion" principal, what nationality was Leonardo da Vinci, or Goethe, or Yehuda Halevi, or Isaac Newton, or Adam Mickiewicz, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, or Muhammad, or Jesus?

For that matter, what "nationality" is Gordon Brown? To the media and the general public he is (almost quintessentially) Scottish, he apparently identifies himself as primarily British (although he has never rejected his Scottish nationality), and technically he is a citizen of the European Union, and approaches his 'Europeanness' with great pride and seriousness if his brave political decisions are an indication of his personal feelings.

What "nationality" is Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama?

Petrarch, who has long been used as an example on this page, is described as "Italian" here, centuries before the invention of the Italian state.

Please note that this - "Although persons from these countries hold British nationality..." - is incomplete. People from those 4 countries are not only citizens of the United Kingdom, but also citizens of the European Union, sometimes also/or of Ireland; and are treated differently under the separate legal systems according to their official domicile (see English law, Northern Ireland law and Scots law).

Personally, I am of the opinion that English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalists would absolutely love it if Wikipedia started imposing the adjective "British" all over biographical articles, especially if "English" etc is then added in brackets as a sideswipe à la Colin McRae. It sometimes seems to me that the vociferous advocates of the Union here at Wikipedia are actually their own worst enemies. Plus ça change... --Mais oui! 08:50, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

I still don't like the idea of one country being treated different from the others. There's too much prominance being given to the UK's divisions. People of Italy aren't called Scillians, Naplese etc (and those former independant countries have just as long of histories). GoodDay 13:39, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Because Britain is regarded as a union of countries. If Italy doesn't do that, that's their choice, but Wikipedia should base its articles on facts and not politics. And the fact is that constituent country nationalities are regarded as equally valid as "British", as a look at any UK newspaper will confirm. Lurker (said · done) 13:46, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
BTW, why was a notice about this debate posted on the English, Northern Irish, Welsh And UK Wikiproject pages, but not the Scottish one? Anyone disappointed to see Scots appearing on this talk page? Lurker (said · done) 13:49, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
I posted the notice on the various WikiProjects, as I thought that other people would like to express their views on this matter. The notice was not posted on the WikiProject Scotland talk page but on Wikipedia talk:Scottish Wikipedians' notice board, as instructed at the top of the WikiProject Scotland talk page. Cheers, Jacklee 22:27, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Not sure who had posted the notices on those WikiProject pages. Also, I'm giving up on this discussion - you're correct about the wide usage of things like London, England, Edinburgh, Scotland, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Cardiff, Wales (for example). Hope, someday the people of the UK consider themselve as British primarily. GoodDay 13:57, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
I think with increasing indepdence to Scottish, Welsh & Northern Irish Parliments/Assemblies, thats very unlikely. And there is a huge difference between the UK and other countries. The UK is four nations united. Italy, France and the others are one nation. If you can't see that I suggest you read the relevant articles. With regards to some of the examples above. I believe that politicians should be described as the nationality of their Parliament (to avoid any confusion, saying G. Brown is a Scottish politician might suggest he a MSP). So UK MPs should be British, MSP Scottish and so on. This avoids any confusion in my opinion. --UpDown 16:13, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Oh heck this one again. (By the way what would you do about politicians who've sat in more than one parliament? Let's leave aside people who've sat in two of Westminster, devolved parliaments and the Dail and look at a few others - Richard Casey was in his career a member of the Australian Parliament and Governor General of Australia. But he was also a member of the British War Cabinet in the Second World War and as a peer a member of the House of Lords. Or Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln - to quote the reference desk "A Hungarian Jew by birth, he went on to become a Liberal MP in the British House of Commons, who subsequently took part in an abortive right-wing coup in Germany, meeting Hitler in the process, finally dying in China in 1943 as a Buddhist monk and a Japanese agent!")
Problem 1 - the terms "nation" and "nationality" are rather more fluid than their uses here imply (indeed a lot of "is Scottish a nationality?" seems to hinge more on what nationality means than anything to do with Scottish). This is especially tricky when we're talking about civic nationalism - who is passing down rulings from on high that one nation "exists" and the other doesn't? A lot of political states have "forged the nation" by generating a common sense of national identity based on the political state. Also "nationality" is often used interchangably with "citizenship" (particularly on passports
Problem 2: The idea the UK is somehow different from other countries is a little hard to swallow (although I think the examples cited aren't always the best) - is there really no dispute as to whether someone from Montreal is "Canadian"/"Quebecer"/"Québécois"?! Many modern day countries in Africa encorporate various existing identities - South Africa has had numerous (as well as black/white/coloured/Indian, there are many different tribes, some of whom embraced the "independence" of the Bantustans, the Afrikaner-British divide which reflects both ethnicity & civic loyalties but also the historic divide between the four old provinces... one can go on for ever on this). Look for instance at this BBC News story [2] about how "South Africa" has gone from being "a small country of just five million people" that a golfer said he came from to one where the rugby captain felt he had "43 million South Africans" behind him in 1995. But there has been a very proactive effort at "South Africanisation" in that country. I think the reason we get these issues far more with the UK than anywhere else is down to having a lot of Users who hold different views on this, whereas a lot of the other countries there's either a language distinction as well that diverts the positions onto other Wikipedias or far fewer Users here.
Problem 3: Within the individual constituent countries there are very different levels of national identity. Walking around Edinburgh last week I saw far more displays of constituent country identity - saltires flying, shops selling traditional Scottish dress & other products and so forth - than one sees in London. It's been noted in several studies that people from ethnic minorities in England tend to identify as British first and foremost rather than "English" (although the figures can fluctuate, especially during international sports tournaments), perhaps because "English nationalism" has at times been claimed by ethnic nationalists. One survey (I forget where it is online) was rather more rigid about identity and produced results suggesting that overall people narrowly opted for the constituent countries but when you break it down into results by those countries (as that kind of majoritarianism would suggest) the English opt more for "British".
Problem 4: Historically "English" and "British" were often used interchangably, so even if someone from a past era can be sourced as saying they were "English" it's not clear that they were making the choice the way we'd make it today. For instance Andrew Bonar Law said he was "Prime Minister of England". But Law was born in Canada of Scottish & Northern Irish descent, came to Scotland at the age of 12 where he was educated and built up a business and during his premiership was the MP for Glasgow Central. There's equally the problem with "England" meaning "England and Wales (and Berwick)" for a significant period, and then there's even the question of Monmouthshire (or perhaps that should be eastern Monmouthshire - part of the problem is it's very much a county of two halves that have historically had more in common with their neighbours than with each other) where retroactively applying the modern day "it's Welsh" position as though it was clearcut then is somewhat anachronistic.
Problem 5: Identity can change depending on the circumstances and many do not feel they have to choose one identity over another. The survey cited above indicated that a lot of people are happy with both "British" and "English" in various proportions and proportions can change. Studies in Northern Ireland have found that a Protestant can feel "British" when contemplating the border, but "Northern Irish" during international football matches and "Irish" during international rugby matches.
Problem 6: The UK isn't as simple as "four [insert preferred word]" - there's Cornwall, Orkney, Shetland and so forth.
Problem 7: Too many users seem to think any attempt to settle this by guidelines and Manuals of Style is a covert way to get some ruling to impose one POV, rather than a wish to avoid having to fight the same issues out on every article and have the outcome determined by who lasts the course in revert wars.
Timrollpickering 21:03, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
I think this has veered too much into the area of how a subject self-identifies (which can be discussed in articles if it's important), whereas I think the lead is supposed to reflect legal national citizenship (whether the law is just or not). Internal political and ethnic conflicts and identity ambiguity can be discussed in the article if relevant. So what about "UK"? This reflects national citizenship more obviously than the more ambiguous "British", and more specifics could follow. Just a thought.
Also, I think there is a valid analogy to be made between say Scotland/UK, Quebec/Canada, Hawaii/United States, the problems in Belgium, and probably plenty of other contentious national disputes. I'm not absolutely sure what the answer is, but I am wary that the only debate being done here concerns the UK, and that so much weight is being given to polls of how the public self-identifies. I think the opening sentence should stick with legal citizenship realities. Perhaps before this is decided, folks should try to research other similar examples and think through what's most appropriate on a wider scale than just the UK. --Melty girl 21:29, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
The difference between Scotland/UK and Quebec/Canada and Hawaii/United States is that Scotland is a region of unitary state (the UK) which has recently been granted a degree of local government which may be withdrawn at any time, while Quebec and Hawaii are sovereign constituents of federations with powers irrevocably reserved to them. Quebec and Hawaii are far closer to being legal nations than Scotland is. --Michael Johnson 21:38, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
That's just a wee bit condescending! Do you really think Scotland can have its £431m fully-elected Scottish Parliament’s powers ‘withdrawn at any time’! By who? The Queen? It's a little more than a 'granted degree of local government' to say the least! The in-power Scottish Nationalist Party is negotiating support for their planned referendum on independence in 2010. If the SNP get enough support to follow through (and if enough Scottish people show they want it, they most likely will), and the public then vote ‘yes’, Scotland will become an independent country! It’s the buzz in Scotland – and a major possibility.
So how can Hawaii (of all places!) be ‘closer’ to being a legal nation than Scotland? Hawaii has it’s own legislature (as has Scotland for many years), and Hawaiian arms of the Democratic and Republican Parties, but its hardly more autonomous than many other US States, and it’s not exactly bidding for independence (even if it does have various movements). The USA simply doesn’t give up places it owns! It's far more interested in assimilating new ones, in my opinion. Hawaii lost its nation status when it became the 50th State of America. I would certainly support claims to nationhood (and independence) if the idea and movements were strong enough, though – but I’m not sure of the support. I think the Democrats have held majority power for years. Scotland has always has its own laws, and a strong sense of dependence – now it has a Parliament headed by their organised, popular and long-established national party, it may well achieve it.
Unlike Hawaii, Quebec is a recognised nation (by Canada). Having been arguably cheated out of ‘sovereignty’ in 1995, it’s odds-on (in my view) they’ll get it their 2010 referendum, though the normally high support seems to have dipped a bit right now. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Matt Lewis (talkcontribs) 17:35, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
Relying on legal nationality is not such a great idea. What legal nationality was George Washington? Michael Collins? Jan Czyński? Patrick Pearse? Bronisław Szwarce? Problems, problems. Angus McLellan (Talk) 22:08, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Timrollpickering has raised many valid points. I especially agree with his "Problem 7" – I don't have any vested interest in whether people are referred to as "British" or "English/(Northern) Irish/Scottish/Welsh", and just wanted to find out whether there was any consensus as to which was preferred. If so, "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)" seemed to be the right place for the consensus to be recorded in the form of a guideline.

I didn't think the issue was going to be a straightforward one. The main problem seems to be whether "nationality" refers to legal citizenship or, for want of a better phrase, "cultural nationality". There are pros and cons for either approach. I'm not sure which direction the debate should take now. Should we:

  1. Stick to trying to achieve consensus on UK first, leaving the issues of other countries to be dealt with in separate discussions?
  2. Broaden the debate to whether "nationality" should mean legal citizenship or cultural nationality?
  3. Admit failure and abandon attempts to formulate a guideline through consensus, leaving the issue to be fought out article by article (which, to me, seems the least desirable option)?

Cheers, Jacklee 23:01, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Or simply avoid plastering nationalities and flags across articles. Mention them only when important. And if it is important it will be verifiable from reliable sources. Angus McLellan (Talk) 23:21, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Look Before you Leap

Jacklee, I see you are from Singapore and studying in the UK. I suggest you learn a bit about the current affairs and history of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland – before jumping in to major things like this. I don't mean to be rude, but...

In the UK, we have learnt to deal with describing our identities without rigid rules!

It is particularly important for Northern Ireland, with the sensitive nature of its past troubles and current stability, and for Scotland, where whether to hold a public referendum on attaining full independence from Britain has been a major issue in recent years. My country, Wales, is likely to be swayed by the tide. I am British and Welsh – please, let me decide when I say which one. People (as usual) can edit away on Wikipedia until a happy consensus is found for the article in question!


You might be surprised that ‘Britain’ (and hence the word British) does NOT include Northern Ireland! (you could start by reading the Wikipedia article!). The UK (United Kingdom) is the name for Britain and Northern Ireland! Also, Wales happens not to be represented on the Union Jack (the UK flag). Life is flexible here – we are an island and a 'melting pot' and always were, we have enough problems with rigid ideas of nationalism regarding immigration etc, as it is. Please - let us Celts in particular choose our own ground. (the Celtic countries, by the way, are Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.) --Matt Lewis 20:39, 25 October 2007 (UTC) --Matt Lewis 21:45, 25 October 2007 (UTC)


Matt, Pretani (and hence the terms 'Britain', 'Great Britain', 'British', and 'British Isles') DOES include Northern Ireland. In fact, so does the United Kingdom (as you yourself pointed out). England is a Celtic country also, by the way, by virtue of the fact that it was settled by Celts. --Setanta 02:05, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
What? You are say "England is a Celtic country also, by the way, by virtue of the fact that it was settled by Celts." Look again at the way you used 'is' and 'was' in the same sentence. Then read a little about logic - and a little about the Roman invasion too. You are the Setanta who says "they are British whether they like it or not". Nice controlling attitude. --Matt Lewis 16:54, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Matt, don't bite my head off! I never said I was an expert on things relating to the UK. I just wanted to know whether I ought to state persons as "British" or "English/(Northern) Irish/Scottish/Welsh" in articles, after UpDown reverted some edits that I had made, claiming there was consensus that the latter should be used. Being unable to find anything in the Manual of Style about this, I suggested that perhaps there ought to be a guideline. Of course it's open to people to choose how they wish their nationality to be referred to: see note 3b of the proposed guidelines. The problem comes when there is no evidence of any choice (which would be most of the time). Can there ever be a "happy consensus" if there isn't a guideline agreed on by consensus to follow? I seriously doubt it.
By the way, I know that Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain, but according to "British nationality law", residents of Northern Ireland are "British citizens". See also "Northern Ireland", which states that "[p]eople from Northern Ireland can choose to be British citizens on the same basis as people from any other part of the United Kingdom." It seems, then, that it's perfectly valid to refer to people from Northern Ireland as "British". Cheers, Jacklee 22:44, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Well to really confuse things, isn't "Great Britain" derived from the "British Isles", a term which is used to include Ireland, not the other way round, so "Northern Ireland is British" is not a technically incorrect term. (And yes I'm aware this is a contentious term in Ireland but more with Irish nationalists - I've not heard of Unionists objecting to this one.) Timrollpickering 23:14, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
No, Great Britain is derrived from the need for medieval mapmakers to distinguish between two Britains: Britanny and the island of Britain, which were written similarly.
If you go back for enough, at about the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, the two islands along with Iceland (and sometimes Norway and Denmark!) are called "Islands of Britain" - but the island today called Britain was at that time called Albion (e.g. "Albion, an Island of Britain" and "Hibernia, an Island of Britain", and "Thule, an Island of Britain", "Thule" is thought most likely to be Iceland). This contracted after the Roman invasion, with Britain first referring to the area conquered by the Romans and then, with time, the whole island. (Albion, in some way some ways flipped around too, becoming a mythical-like word in English, but contracting to mean only Scotland, roughly the area of Albion/Britian unconquered by the Romans, in the Celtic languages of Britain and Ireland.) --sony-youthpléigh 13:48, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
Where does it say in British nationality law that residents of NI are British citizens? MurphiaMan 14:22, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
It's implied rather than express. "British nationality law#Classes of British nationality" states "British Citizens usually hold this status through a connection with the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man ('United Kingdom and Islands')", and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. People from NI don't appear to fall under any of the other five categories of British citizenship. The point is put more clearly in from "Northern Ireland". Cheers, Jacklee 15:15, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
To muddle things up even further, read Irish nationality law, Ireland, and Northern Ireland to see that Northern Irish people are equally Irish nationals also. Eeeek! --sony-youthpléigh 14:48, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
With all due respect Matt, "Britain" (and therefore British) does include Northern Ireland, since "Britain" (see the first definition on that page) is commonly used interchangeably with "United Kingdom". Great Britain isn't, but Britain certainly is. -- Necrothesp 15:28, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Necrothesp – How can you say ‘NI does include Britain’ (your italics) with only your purely subjective reasoning that they are 'commonly' interchanged! You would have better said ‘can include Britain’! AND THAT IS MY POINT!!!!! It depends who you speak to!!!!! So why have rigid rules? PS. Using a Wikipedia disambiguation page to prove your point really makes me despair! Where is the Wikipedia article on just Britain? – there isn’t one! Nor does your 'Britain' (without Great) appear anywhere in the Northern Irish page!!!! Even Wikipedia admits that we shouldn't use Wikipedia to prove Wikipedia!

Jacklee - 'Perfectly valid' just isn’t kind of language to use on Wikipedia regarding nationality and Northern Ireland, whatever document you feel you've cleverly gleaned something from, like some kind of lawyer! The UK is a complex place! Perhaps you could work for the Foreign Office and sort it all out for us? We could use some help on Welsh language road signs in Wales – perhaps you are our man? Croeso I Gymru, my son. I'm trying to tell you that the 'rules' you want cannot and certainly will not be applied by the people of the UK anything like as rigidly as you want them to! We need room to manoeuvre. Please read my above entry again. I suppose I am 'biting your head off' - but it's because you are simply dismissing hard-felt cultural issues surrounding the UK just to make Wikipedia neater and more convenient for people similar to yourself (who have little or no attachment to the UK)!

You must read-up about the UK (which you should have done first), though it’s good you admit you have very little knowledge of us. This is starting to be a whole Wikipedia issue with me though – people fanny around it so carelessly – it really annoys me to be honest, especially with political subjects like this! The UK happens to be deeply complex and diverse! How can people not know that?! Maybe it’s because I’m Welsh I get so cheesed off – so many maps and globes choose not to find space for a label (it is our curse that England is to the right of us), and we are consequently a little less well known internationally. Many of us are particularly keen on placing ‘Wales’ before (or even in place of) British, or UK. We have an economy to look after, after all.

The current 'consensus' I referred to over UK nationalities is unique to each article, and is found though the Wiki process of edits, reverts and discussions – because it cannot be done by a ‘rule book’! And people then settle on someone (or something) being Welsh or British etc by themselves! You see? Many people you are in discussion with are clearly not from the UK – I am - so listen to me! And with your invitation messages in the Scottish, Welsh and Irish discussion pages you are in serious danger of being wound-up by countless merciless Celts! (either that or completely ignored by them).

If someone needs to know what Welsh or Wales etc means – they can surely click on the words can’t they? I usually use the format ‘from Aberystwyth, Wales, UK’ – but why should I force anyone else to? I then tend to use ‘British’ at some point, but I’ve had it changed to ‘Welsh’ and I’ve let it be – why would I not? ‘UK’ usually remains somewhere in the article – which should be enough for any pedant. Using ‘Principality’ however, is a ‘no no’ with me! I think that one is definitely fair game to remove!

It is a truism to say that people cannot always categorise another 'People' (or two, or three) as easily as they seem to want to! Just look around the globe, as someone else has pointed out. Unless you have a deep 'need' for rigid rules, flexibility of expression where nationalities are concerned needn’t be such a terrible thing! Sometimes ‘woolly areas’ like Wales are just a simple fact of life. Forgive me if I keep ramming this home, but you won’t find many conforming like sheep if your guidelines are passed.

By the way – you won’t get a real feeling of anything just by reading the Wikipedia article on it – please read elsewhere too! If I could be left with that on my gravestone I’d die a happy man (the whole line, that is - not just ‘please read elsewhere too’!).

(PS. Your other ‘British’ Guidelines – like leaving nationality out when having no proof - are completely BONKERS too.) --Matt Lewis 18:47, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

"The current 'consensus' I referred to over UK nationalities is unique to each article" Well yes and no. The problem is that individual consensuses have existed in some areas - for example in sport most international players have been given the nationality for the country they play for. But all too often these get challenged by new editors or changed on the basis that some other article uses a different form or because liks can be found to give a different answer and the result is we get ridiculous constructs like "Scottish tennis player who plays for Great Britain" that just confuses even more (it sounds like someone of one country who plays for another country through exploitation of the grandparent rule or equivalent - even though we just call Greg Rusedski "a former British tennis player", well at least until someone spots this). Frankly in a lot of places it isn't an individual article consensus so much as "which POV can last longer" in revert wars. This in turn causes problems when several people whose nationality is equally clear get written up on the basis of who got there last. That's hardly an ideal solution. Timrollpickering 20:11, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
Oooh matron!
I’ve honestly never come across any problem, not even awkward constructs that can't be improved by someone till it reads okay. Where do people revert like you say they do? Are you sure this is not all merely a kind of fancy, driven by a rather naughty need for strict discipline?
And you won't get your 'ideal solution' guys - especially if you try and bring sport into the equation! (it'll be fun watching you try though!) --Matt Lewis 20:43, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm back (after having cooled off); another reason I prefer British over English, Welsh, Scottish, (Northern) Irish? The 'Year' articles- (ex: 2007 etc). It's frustrating to see, in the birth and death sections - Canadian actor, American comedian, English actor, Italian singer, Scottish dancer, etc. GoodDay 22:49, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Matt, I don't see what you're so riled up about. The guideline I'm currently proposing actually permits editors to indicate "English/(Northern) Irish/Scottish/Welsh" in many situations, since there appears to be a consensus that that is the right way to go where the UK is concerned. I agree with Timrollpickering – on balance, there's less harm having a guideline than not having one. At least that way if there's a dispute over whether a consensus exists one way or the other, the guideline provides evidence of the current consensus on the matter. And why is proposed note 3d "completely BONKERS"? It advises that a person's nationality should be left out when it's not clear what the nationality is. Following the example in the rule, if, say, I was born in Singapore but was educated in the UK and worked there for half of my life and in Singapore for the other half, and there was at present no other evidence of my nationality, would it be accurate to state that I was "Singaporean" or "British"? Cheers, Jacklee 05:28, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

That's easy! Based on what we know about you, it's as clear as a bell you're not British! Do you get my point? (silly question...) If someone doesn't know about something they shouldn't be editing it!!!! And what is the current 'harm' in there being no guidlines?! --Matt Lewis 09:54, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
Matt, I am well aware that we shouldn't use Wikipedia to prove Wikipedia. I merely provided the link as illustration. I note that nowhere have you provided proof that Britain is not interchangeable with the UK, despite your rant on the subject of people providing proof of their opinions. And while Jack may not be British, I am and I fully understand the differences in terminology. Irish nationalists do not (naturally) regard NI as part of Britain, but most other British people do. Can I prove it? Probably not. Does that mean I'm wrong and you're right? No. And incidentally, may I suggest you calm down and stay civil. -- Necrothesp 12:26, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Matt, just because I'm not British doesn't mean I'm not knowledgable about some topics relating to Britain or that I should be barred from editing all British-related articles. The focus of this discussion is on whether the subjects of biographical articles should be termed "British" or "Welsh [etc.]". That fact is not always evident from available sources, in which case in accordance with proposed note 3d an editor should not make guesses about nationality. I can't understand why you object to that. If the fact can be discerned with some certainty (notes 3b and 3c), then of course nationality may be stated. In dismissing the example I gave you're missing my point. Of course you can discern my nationality based on information provided on my user page, in which case if you were editing a Wikipedia article about me you could state that fact. But in many cases, there won't be such clear evidence and the person's birth place or place(s) of residence may not provide a conclusive answer. In my view having a guideline along the lines I've proposed provides evidence of consensus on the matter, and may help to reduce disputes over how a person's nationality should be indicated. Obviously, if some editors choose to ignore it not much can be done about that, except reverting their changes. Cheers, Jacklee 13:53, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

I'm in agreement; British editors are not the custodians of British related articles. GoodDay 14:08, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Don't be so over-dramatic guys!

No-one is suggesting ‘barring’ anyone not British! But as a Welsh Brit, I’m entitled to demand that people know what they are talking about, especially if they are playing around with somebody else’s nationality (and doubly especially if it’s my own)! And it’s not 'uncivil' to highlight the simple flaws on your kind of argument, Necrothesp - and your 'tit for tat' reply just kind of proved my point!

And as for your comment on your proposed guidelines, Jacklee ("Obviously, if some editors choose to ignore it not much can be done about that, except reverting their changes.") – that is exactly what I’m worried about! You and your guideline-followers will have to keep reverting articles to fit the guidelines! Reverting will get a lot worse then than you imagine it already is (and I don’t believe the current reverting/arguments are anything like as bad as you are falsely claiming just to push your guidelines through!). So why fix something that isn’t broken? And have you really got the ego to remove ‘Wales’ from an article just because you can’t find proof of Welsh nationality, and no-one else has given it? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? To me it really is bonkers.

If there was the ’easy answer’ about Britishness that you so want, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place – and simple guidelines would already be there! They are not there because Britain exists as a flexible construct – and always has! The success of Scottish independence and the likelihood of devolution was in the papers and on the news this morning – why not read or watch something like that for an idea about how we see ourselves? And don’t be so rude to say you are not really touching things like that. Look at the lines drawn through Africa, the mess around Jerusalem, countries like Belgium, Russia, China, Spain, Northern Ireland – I wish the world could fit into simple definitions, I really do! But push or guide people into ‘convenient’ slots – and you only stir up trouble. --Matt Lewis 21:19, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Matt, why do you allege that other editors are trying to "push... people into 'convenient' slots"? The effect of note 3e of the latest version of the proposed guidelines is that in appropriate circumstances (i.e., when notes 3b and 3c apply) "English [etc.]" may be used instead of "British", since there are a number of editors who think this is the preferred approach. This seems to be entirely in line with the views you've expressed. The whole idea behind the proposed guidelines is to record consensus on the issue in an article that is easy for other editors to locate.
You express concern over proposed rule 3d. Don't you agree that unreferenced facts should not be inserted into articles? I don't go around randomly removing "Scottish [etc.]" from articles (yes, I have better things to do than that), but if I happen to be editing an article that I'm interested in why shouldn't I, if neither notes 3b or 3c are satisfied? What you seem to be suggesting is that editors should be free to insert "Welsh [etc.]" into articles with little or no basis, but that other editors should not remove such attributions.
You said earlier that "[p]eople (as usual) can edit away on Wikipedia until a happy consensus is found for the article in question". If there's a dispute over whether a person should be described as "British" or "English [etc.]", it is not likely that a "happy consensus" will be reached. (And at no time did I say the situation was very bad, so I do not appreciate your allegation that I made a false claim.) Why not try to achieve consensus over the guidelines now? Cheers, Jacklee 22:52, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm trying to tell you that it is a different matter for each article! You would have to cover all possiblilies - and what's the point in that? And if a dispute is meaningful it would actually be explained in the article anyway! By trying to work it out universally now, you are trying to squash us into one convenient blob - even if you don't see it!! On council forms and the like I can often put that I am Welsh, or a UK citizen, or British (and the same with using the postal service) – no one minds because we know what we mean and because we can't enforce even guidelines without offending people. And why offend people?? Wikipedia links to itself - so anyone here who doesn't know where Wales is can soon find out! How do you actually expect to find a collective consensus ‘first’ anyway? How will it happen? Honestly, the only consensus over your guidelines I can envisage would end up with something that simply gives a list of facts about the countries, and states the ways that are used to refer to them (but would that be a guideline? In fact what use would it be?). It’s a rule thing too – you don't seem to get it. Look back at earlier comments on NI (and Scotland) rather than Wales - if that helps --Matt Lewis 00:13, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Sooo, because many British describe themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh and (Northern) Irish (and foreigners describe them as such, aswell), Wikipedia should reflect this; even though it differs from the others countries of the world. Begrudingly, I'm starting to accept this (as it is what is, not what I want it to be). GoodDay 18:28, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

Matt, I'm sorry, but referring to other people's comments (and I wasn't actually referring to mine) as "completely bonkers" and implying they don't know what they're talking about is uncivil. You should be able to voice your opinions (and they are only opinions) without resorting to that. I'm not actually disagreeing with most of what you say, but ranting at those who may disagree with some of it is not helping. We all have strong opinions, but it's best to stay polite. -- Necrothesp 09:33, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Hi, Matt, I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree on the desirability of having a Manual of Style guideline on this matter. — Cheers, JackLee talk contribs count 15:21, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
You just take it all so lightly!! You cannot mean that all people who are against having guidlines (like me) should 'agree to disagree' with people who are for them (like you)? That would mean keeping things as they are! I expect you just mean me and you - but I'm arguing the points, not you (and it's one you should understand that I am serious about) - so I will carry on, point by point, 'til I decide to stop! --Matt Lewis 16:44, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

The Facts

The facts are that nationality, in the strictest sense when relating to the United Kingdom, is British. I may be an Ulsterman, for example, but that is not my nationality - it's an ethnicity. Citizens of the United Kingdom all have one thing in common: they are British - whether they like it or not. --Setanta 02:21, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

Even if they have 2 passports? MurphiaMan 06:37, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Begrudingly, I'm starting to accept these English, Scottish, Welsh and (Northern) Irish terms. Even the international community uses this terms, in place of British. GoodDay 18:31, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
A passport is not the be-all and end-all of citizenship. A passport is merely a document which offers proof that a country has accepted a person as a citizen thereof.
To answer your question though, MurphiaMan: yes - Citizens of the United Kingdom all have one thing in common: they are British - whether they like it or not... even if they are citizens of other countries as well. --Setanta 03:27, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Should anyone admit to some bias here? As someone else pointed out, being pro-'British' is as loaded as, say, being pro-'Scottish'. It is a deep political feeling for some to actually be British - perhaps that needs pointing out more. Life has been lost over this, after all. --Matt Lewis 17:35, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Charles Darwin

Since this example was raised, I've just had a quick glance in the talkpage archives. It seems the only point where this came up was briefly here: Talk:Charles Darwin/Archive 2#Nationality and not generated much discussion there. However the opening description subsequently changed again - my guess is as a result of a merger of various texts due to discussion here Talk:Charles Darwin/Archive 3#Informal review II: content which seems to have been about how to sum up Darwin's scientific contribution and nationality wasn't raised one way or the other.

And that's it it seems, unless there was a revert war that didn't leave a single trace on the talk page (or I've overlooked if it did). Certainly the point hasn't come up in the formal GA and FAC process. But I think this is probably because most people don't regard this as a yay or nay issue for FA status, especially if a wider edit war hasn't yet reached the article. Timrollpickering 23:14, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Where are we now?

Well my summary is...

  • The subject of British (etc) nationality is complex and controversial. Strongly-held diverse views have been expressed above. The people of the UK do not have a simple view of nationality, with opinion polls indicating that most of them think they are some combination of British plus Scottish/Welsh/Irish/English.
  • There is a school of thought which says that we should use "British" as the nationality for all citizens of the UK. This has some merit in being simple, verifiable and having a meaningful legal status in the UK and internationally. However, it is unlikely ever to achieve any kind of consensus. Also, some of the subjects of Wikipedia articles strongly dissociate themselves from "Britishness".
  • There is another school of thought which says that we don't need a guideline at all: we just discuss it at the article level, if necessary, and reach consensus there. The argument against this is that consensus at the article level can mean "which POV can last longer in revert wars".
  • If we don't go for either the ubiquitous British or no guidelines at all options, there are some clear-cut cases where we might reach a consensus. For instance:
    • People who have associated themselves with a particular nationalist cause (eg Sean Connery - Scottish)
    • People who have dissociated themselves from a particular nationalist cause (I think Peter Green is an example of someone who doesn't like "English" and is therefore British).
    • People whose lives have been too complex to assign them to anything other than British (maybe John Martyn: born in England, lives in Ireland, speaks with a Glaswegian accent.)
    • People primarily associated with national sporting teams.
  • That then leaves a lot of people who don't fit into those categories. Here, again, I think there is a division of views. Some would argue that if someone is born in (for example) England and spends most of their life there, it is obvious that we call them "English". The contrary view is that nationality concerns how "people prefer to describe themselves" and that, without any direct verifiable evidence of their preference, we should default to the legal nationality of "British".

Is this a fair summary of the arguments and the possible options and choices? Bluewave 15:08, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Hi, thanks for this. I was going to attempt a summary but am glad that you've beat me to it. I think you've captured the essence of the discussion so far, and would point out that each of the cases you've identified as matters upon which consensus might be reached are all reflected in the current version of my proposed guideline which is indicated above. There is one more issue – whether the debate should be widened to whether "nationality" should mean legal citizenship or "cultural nationality". I think it would be preferable to try and achieve consensus on the existing cases (ie, the UK situation first) before moving on to that wider issue. — Cheers, JackLee talk contribs count 15:28, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Generally agree, but some for small niggly points (e.g. chosing to be British to the exception of ENG/SCO/WAL/etc. is as much choosing a nationalist association as the other way around). Would add the complexity of Ireland - If we go with all from the UK being British, then logically anyone 1801-1922 from the 26 counties is "British" - that ain't going to go down, as well as being historically retrospective. Also, the complexity of Northern Ireland doesn't bode well for a policy of labelling people from NI as "British", nor is it accurate or verifiable, they could just as simplistically be labelled "Irish" if we are to use legal nationality. (While I'm mentioning retrospecitive histories, "British" as we mean it today is quite new. Even on Britain, Scottish/English is historically the stronger identifier, both internally and externally.)
Finally, Jack's suggestion to widen the debate on whether "nationality" should mean legal citizenship or "cultural nationality" is a back door argument to label everyone British by blanking other arguments out. The very fact that we cannot reach agreement on this point is down to the fact that legal citizenship alone, in the case of the UK at least, is a dud. --sony-youthpléigh 16:28, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

I'd agree on the main points listed, although with sport there may be a few clarifiers needed.

1). If I remember correctly the FIFA rules "fix" a player's national team at the adult level so it may be possible that some players have played for multiple countries in their career.
2). What do we do for players whose career straddles changes in the teams? The only UK related ones I can think of involve the two Irish football teams - the pre partition team carried on as an All Ireland Belfast based team until the 1950s when FIFA made it become Northern Ireland only; a new Dublin All Ireland team was founded in the 1920s and became a Republic only team in the 1950s and there are players who variously played for both and for pre&post (football) partition teams (the Home Nations were not in FIFA between the wars). (And it's possible the solution found may be a precedent for, say, the various Yugoslavia and successor teams.)
3). Then there's "diaspora" players like Greg Ruzedski - again shall we just take the country they play for?
4). What do we for sports that are generally played individually - Andy Murray has been a source of particular revert wars and even arguments over how "official" some Scotland vs England match he was once in counts.
5). What about people who are notable in more than one field - e.g. Ken Maginnis who's both a very prominent supporter of the All Ireland Rugby Team (so "Irish") and a prominent Ulster Unionist politician (so "British")?
A couple of others:
6). With regards "where they've lived all the time" I think this is going to be a very messy rule of thumb, especially as studies have also found most non-white people living in England regard themselves as "British" and see "English" as an ethnicity.
7). What about politicians - is it best to use which level the politics they operate at (with exemptions for those in one constiuent country only parties)? Timrollpickering 16:36, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

"Is this a fair summary of the arguments and the possible options and choices?" No - Only because unfortunately you ended with the line "we should default to the legal nationality of "British" - and that is all some people want to read!!!!! To be honest, I don't feel you were strong enough about political feeling, especially bearing in mind that some people clearly genuinely feel it shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of rules. Now isn't that just the story of discontentment? There is one particular guy (from Belfast) here who is fervently pro-British - do we need all this? And regarding sport, all I will say is that it's just not cricket! Are the lazy-minded pedants going to sort the ECB out too? I haven't got time to explain everything - it's up to people to look into things properly. --Matt Lewis 17:16, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Matt. You seem to be objecting to my summary on the basis that, if you extract one phrase, out of context, it argues for particular point of view. The summary was supposed to include all the main points of view that have been expressed and you might have picked out "we don't need a guideline at all" or "it is obvious that we call them English". With regard to the politics, I (perhaps naively) thought the focus of the guidelines should be on the political feelings of the subjects of Wikipedia articles, not those of individual editors. Bluewave 09:16, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
I think you missed the bitter irony! Your summary covered a lot - but the real problems here to me are the clear dismissal of politics by some who want to just push this through, and also that some people are focusing singularly on sentences that seem to fit in with a possible guideline - and it can't work like that. You final line was a gift - check out the response! I just tried to bring those two points out - sorry if I sounded rude. Summaries can include emotive language when about emotive issues - and, politically, this is an emotive issue. --Matt Lewis 16:44, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
Northern Irish is a special case because of the different laws pertaining to nationality and citizenship.--Vintagekits 20:52, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
My thoughts:
  • It may well be that a person's legal or "cultural" nationality may not correspond with the country that he or she plays a sport for. In such a case, it should be made clear that while the person is of a certain nationality he or she plays for one or more countries.
  • The proposed rule that states it's acceptable to put down "Welsh [etc.]" if a person is born there and spends most of his or her life there may be a little vague, but it seems the best that can be formulated at this point. It legitimizes a practice that many editors adopt. If better evidence of nationality (e.g., a newspaper article) turns up, the attribution can be affirmed or amended and the evidence cited in a footnote.
  • Sony-youth, by raising the question whether the debate should be widened to considering whether "nationality" should mean legal citizenship or "cultural nationality", it certainly wasn't my intention to covertly "label everyone British by blanking other arguments out". I was merely taking up a point that another editor had raised, and as you can see from my earlier remarks I actually felt that we shouldn't try to deal with that wider issue right now.
  • I'm not sure about the Northern Ireland issue, which seems to be a special case. If either "British" or "Irish" is felt to be unacceptable as a default in the absence of evidence, perhaps people from that region should just be described as "from Northern Ireland".
  • Matt, you are quite happy to permit editors to insert "English [etc.]" as they wish – and as Bluewave has stated in his summary there may be consensus for editors to do so where there is sufficient evidence such as birth and long residence in a particular place. But you appear to be objecting to the use of "British" even when there is no such evidence. Really, you can't have it both ways. And calling people "lazy-minded pedants" doesn't help one way or another.
— Cheers, JackLee talk contribs count 00:00, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm pretty much with Jack here (I think).
  • English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish if a person is known to have expressed a particular preference, although if born and brought up elsewhere I think "XXX-born" should be added (e.g. "Scottish-born Welsh").
  • English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish if a person (has) lived almost all their lives in one country and is not specifically known to have expressed a preference to be known as British.
  • British where a person (has) moved around and is not known to have expressed a preference for any particular ethnicity or anyone who is specifically known to have expressed a preference to be known as British.
-- Necrothesp 11:01, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
These are quite subjective don't you think? Judging how much someone feels one thing or another. Asking if they have moved around much. (For verifiability they also default to "British" in all but the most exceptional circumstances also.) I (think I) get what you mean, but it kind of puts us where we are right now, doesn't it?
How about just codify the current observable consensus (based on how people edit articles), rather than trying to make one up here: for people from the UK is an exception to the current guideline. Use Britsh/English/Scottish/Welsh/(Northern) Irish as agreed on an article-by-article basis. --sony-youthpléigh 11:40, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
Of course it's subjective. It can't be anything else given the subject. The problem is that there is no agreement or consensus. It's all very well saying that this should be done on an article-by-article basis, but that won't stop the people who go around changing the nationality in every article they can find on a British person to their own perception of what that nationality should be. I am merely laying out my own opinions on the matter and the way I write articles, which is, I think, a fairly balanced way of doing it. -- Necrothesp 12:19, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
One other problem - Cornish. IIRC the current consensus has been that people from Cornwall are to be described as "British" not "English" but I can't remember where this is set down. (And has there ever been discussion on how Orkney & Shetland are covered - I've read that some consider being called "Scottish" even worse than being called "English"!) Timrollpickering 12:16, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
Again, that's not necessarily accurate for everybody. I'm Cornish, but I would give my "nationality" as English. It's generally only Cornish nationalists (a small minority) who object strongly to the description. -- Necrothesp 12:22, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
Oh for Pete’s sake! I'm having what "both ways"? That’s just a lazy and wild stab to discredit me – it’s not related to anything – it’s just a ‘suggestive’ stab! How flippin dare you suggest I have something against the word 'British'! Have you read "anything" I have written? A single word?? I have CLEARLY AND REPEATEDLY objected to anyone creating guidelines because we need individual flexibility of national expression in the UK! It's how we get on here! As I have said before, I myself happen to be incredibly proud of being both Welsh and British (for very personal reasons) - the point is that I decide I can be this – and I decide when I use British and when I use Welsh - and I won't accept any disparate group of people ratifying anybody’s 'guide' for me to follow – because guides refer to rules. It's the same for people I know who are just Welsh etc – they don’t want to be told how to do it. Did you know that WP founder Jimbo Wales actually wanted to remove all the ‘rigid’ political info boxes – because he knew the disagreements they stir cannot be dealt with by guidelines? His philosophy is to use balanced text in the article, and to leave it to us. I’ll tell you now - the UK citizens most happy with your kind of guidelines would be English Conservatives and NI Protestants (and you have support here), the ones the most against would generally be the burgeoning Scottish nationalists, and NI Catholics. Wales is pretty mixed, and the word ‘England’ (and especially the use of it’s flag) has grown in marked popularly in recent years – everyone in the UK has remarked on that. There is nothing any self-important people here can do to change the reality of being a UK citizen! Any WP guidelines would have to be about consensus, but you simply won't find it across the UK on nationality! As life has to go on, we incorporate (on the whole) each others notions, labels and views on a "flexible" day-to-day level. Over a number of posts now, I have given quite a few examples of the complex nature of the UK (supporting a consistently clear argument) - all of which you have studiously ignored. But even a war of attrition cannot be won here! (I hope anyway – my dystopia is a Wikipedia that’s 100% canards, colour and cant – and there’s no one left who’s wise enough to know!).
I must also defend my tone of voice, as you highlight it. I have to say first that I find your guideline proposal a personal affront to my national identity – as you are (ultimately) trying to structure how I can express myself. It’s implicit, but you can’t hide from it. Regarding my “lazy pedants” comment, isn’t it lazy to keep having to admit how little knowledge of the UK you have? Where is your research? Some wisdom and knowledge of politics, history and world affairs would go not amiss either. Nationalism and national identity are hardly trivial matters! I also feel that you (as the creator of this proposed guideline) have given very little time to properly understand my contributions – yet you do refer to them. And it is fair to say pedant, because you tend to pick out convenient little details (or even admonish the tone) rather than focus on the points that are raised. Such a structure as the UK is awash with little details, which will sometimes contradict each other – you could probably go on forever cherry-picking certain useful ‘facts’- but they will never build you an acceptable guideline! People don’t use complicated details to describe their nationhood – they generally use passion! And these guidelines are about how people can describe (in a single word!) a nationality, are they not? Also, you cannot deny that you have consistently made it clear that the very neatness of your numbered box of 'guidelines' is more important than any matter that has, so far, been held against them! You just can't seem to accept that a flexibility of expression is needed by UK citizens - however annoyingly untidy it may seem to impatient passers by. Saving writing all that, I thought maybe ‘lazy pedant’?
And, by the way, your new fancy multi-coloured signature takes up 7 lines of code on my edit box. If we ever needed a guideline - jeez! Sorry – I just can't be monosyllabic about this (and I’m not able to do false politeness) – this is not a WP status fantasy to me – it’s about my Britain - it's eventful past, it's troubled present, it's uncertain future - all the things you choose to ignore, and I care passionately about. I also find Wikipedia a terrifying prospect for the entire world. Hasn’t anyone noticed that half of us here are barking mad? --Matt Lewis 16:59, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
As pointed out in my previous posts on this matter, Originally, I felt British was the correct term to use, period. However, common-usage backs English, Scottish, Welsh and (Northern) Irish (as I pointed out, even the International community uses these). It sure is a balancing act, to say the least. GoodDay 15:13, 3 November 2007 (UTC)
Matt, what happened to trying to work with others toward consensus? Others here seem much more willing to listen to others and actually work out a compromise. Your voluminous, over-emotional, and often uncivil commentary has driven me away from this conversation, and perhaps it has others too. You might want to rethink your approach in the future. --Melty girl 18:59, 3 November 2007 (UTC)
Hi - hi! Hi - I just wanted to say what lovely people you all are and how nice it is to be here! Er, I don't think we need guidelines here really. ok? ok - thanks for listening to me - ok? ok, er, bye.. bye. --Matt Lewis 19:55, 3 November 2007 (UTC)
Come on guys, keep these comments on your personal pages. GoodDay 20:56, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

Use Welsh, Scottish etc. You don't need to add British because that's inherent in those nationalities. At least just use one or the other, both is just unnecessary. And Jacklee, given Ioan Gruffudd identifies himself very strongly as a Welshman, for what it's worth I think he'd think Welsh was the way to go. 09:43, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Hi, Matt:
  • On tone – I disagree that your strong feelings on the subject justify your tone. The way you write does not assume others are talking about the matter in good faith and tends towards stifling discussion. And it deflects attention from the focus of the discussion, exactly what you counsel against.
  • On guidelines – no one has said this is not a complex or controversial issue. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be a guideline on it. What are guidelines for? To record consensus and compromises, and to provide guidance for editors who need assistance with certain issues. Not all editors who edit biographical articles about UK people are themselves from the UK, and there will be some UK editors who feel they need guidance on the matter as well. Will there ever be complete consensus on the issue at hand? Probably not. But as Bluewave has summarized above, one compromise is to have a guideline recognizing that some editors have a preference for indicating "Scottish, [etc.]" when there are sufficient grounds for this attribution, and for indicating "British" when there aren't. We will have to agree to disagree on the need for guidelines on this matter.
How do you like the new streamlined signature? :) — Cheers, JackLee talk 22:46, 3 November 2007 (UTC)
"Record compromises"??! You are talking like this is some kind of international peace treaty! I honestly wonder where some of you guys are coming from! The rule of VETO in this case MUST apply – if a significant group of people feel like I do (believe me I’m not alone) then a tiny group of disparate ‘computer owners’ cannot be allowed to push a guideline through – even if they get over 50% in a tree house vote! Too many people take WP far too seriously for political guidelines like this. Remember Jimmy Wales on nations! Also remember WP on consensus – “Wikipedia's decisions are not based on the number of people who showed up and voted a particular way on a particular day”.
Didn't I answer "agree to disagree" before? Talk about war of attrition! (I get the message though - you refuse to read me due to tone, and you're prepared to begin at your own beginning ad nauseam)
Anyone see the Crying Game on TV last night, by the way? The (Northern) Irish protagonist allowed himself to be called Scottish the whole film by the gay cross-dresser he was falling in love with. Just a thought. --Matt Lewis 16:53, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
Notice how the (Northern) Irish protagonist wanted to shield his identity from the the gay cross-dresser he was falling in love with? --sony-youthpléigh 01:54, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Of course. But why? What was Neil Jordan saying about identity? --Matt Lewis 02:10, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
That those of us that care about our celtic nationality are totally gay?;-) MurphiaMan 07:36, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
This is a good point JL (even more streamlined!) - from memory there certainly were a couple of points that people agreed on, e.g.
  • A member of the Westminster cabinet should be called "British"
  • Anyone with an expressed British/English/Scottish/etc. identity should be put down as that.
  • The 26 counties should be Irish (or, in some notable cases, Anglo-Irish e.g. Duke of Wellington)
I'm sure there are more. Maybe start with these. --sony-youthpléigh 13:32, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
When I read a line like “A member of the Westminster cabinet should be called "British"” I suppose my personal problem is I find that kind of language unsuitable here (even if it wasn’t phrased that way in a guideline). Like WP founder Jimbo Wales, I think that WP just isn’t the place for this kind of detailing. It might come down to what we want WP to be – I personally hope to god it will never see itself as an authority on theses matters.
Also (just as an extra thought – not meant to be part of my direct argument) I bump into quite a lot of young and old internet-users who haven’t fully understood the “Wiki” nature of WP – which does scare me. At the moment, WP is filling the top of the screen with (pretty anonymous) quotes describing it as the greatest encyclopaedia ever – there is not much that explicitly explains to people dropping into a page that it maybe (or is often likely in certain political matters) contaminated. (or to go further, with bluff, bias and lies!).--Matt Lewis 17:43, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
Nice'n'all that your musings on Wikipedia are ... ummm, back onto topic - since it's clear that many people do want guidance on when to use "British" and when to use ENG/SCO/WAL/IRE (as I wrote before, I'm not one of them), would you agree that one thing everyone agrees on (as demonstrated by what happens in fact) is that members of the UK central government (or whatever kind of language you do find suitable) should be called "British"? And so, this could be drawn up into a guideline at least. Or is it just guidelines that you don't like (as a matter of your own personal policy)?
To draw up a line that was said to you earlier, maybe you might considerer chilling your tone, Matt, when dealing with other editors. If you make life uncomfortable for those you are supposed to be engaging in collaboration with then there's little likelihood that we'll have any Wiki in this 'pedia. --sony-youthpléigh 19:14, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
Everything I say is relevant - in a roundabout way! Try and envision the wisdom of having no guidelines on this matter at all (kind of like we always have been doing..) – it’s the clever idea I’m trying to get across. I’m trying various methods of doing it, but it seems to be a bit over the brainbow, like one of those difficult IQ questions – and some people consequently won’t acknowledge it, however many examples or tacks I use. --Matt Lewis 01:22, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm for the wisdom of no guidelines (as I wrote above in a non-roubabout way), others want guidance. It's give and take, Matt, working with others. What I'm suggesting is that we start with the things that we agree on. --sony-youthpléigh 01:54, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Just curious. How many guidelines do we have on this subject? GoodDay 15:00, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
I am trying to understand the argument for having no guidelines. It seems to be based on the view that UK nationality requires great flexibility, but I am struggling to see what this flexibility means. If it refers to the complexity of nationality issues in the UK, and the corresponding difficulty in drawing up meaningful guidelines, I would argue that this is a reason for having guidelines: only with guidelines will there be any sort of consistent approach to that complexity. If, on the other hand, it means that individual editors need the flexibility to make their own decisions about people's nationality, in the absence of citable sources, then this sounds like even more of a reason for a guideline! I'm obviously missing something, here - what is it? Bluewave 15:29, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
(- -----) ;-) Matt Lewis 02:00, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
And I'm trying to understand the 'resistance' to using British for all British biographies. Keeping in mind that English, Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish are used (and sourced), the cry that British usage is offensive is a lame excuse IMHO. GoodDay 18:47, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
I certainly agree, which is why it is pointless to even discuss this further. Simple fact is that we have a lot of emotional wrecks and POV-pushers on Wikipedia in relation to this subject and generally they must be included in any consensus. It's an absolutely ridiculous position, which leads to countless edit wars and other problems, but at the moment the absence of a solution is the only way we can move forward.
I will never give support to any guideline which gives an Anglo/Britannocentric view of the constituent countries of the UK and as such I will never back any guidelines which institute special treatment for Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish identities. Plenty will not support use of the word British except where absolutely necessary. It's not something which you, or any of us, will ever solve. --Breadandcheese 18:56, 13 November 2007 (UTC)
Great second paragraph, Breadandcheese - summed it up really well. RE first parag (if I understand it correctly) - I think these 'countless edit wars' we are told of are a bit of an exaggeration (in my honest experience) - and the almost-surreptitious, highly-unfair, very un-WP and intrinsically-prejudiced 'source' proviso (for each home nation) that actually holds the proposed guideline together, must be dealt with head-on, as it’s always there. The real (main) other problem should be given a name -'Northern Ireland' (you mentioned anglo/Brit-centricism in the second parag). For me the crazies around are the ones who crave the neatness of a comfortable fix! 'POV' is kind-of 'built-in' with this issue, unfortunately.
For me, the vibrant union of the UK works the way it works – so the differences of approach brought about by diversity are not an untenable situation - more an expected, and expedient one! The whole union has always been a juggling act - it's the way it is. The only fully 'neat' solution would be to end each of the individual unions! (which for the record, I’m personally not a huge fan of, all things considered)--Matt Lewis 20:01, 14 November 2007 (UTC

Where do we go from here?

Breadandcheese, I hope I'm right in summarizing your position thus: while you disagree with providing special treatment for Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish identities, you recognize that many editors will not support use of the word "British" either except where absolutely necessary. Therefore, you generally agree with Matt Lewis that a guideline is futile.

Where do we go from here? I have two suggestions:

  • We could continue the discussion to see if a compromise guideline can be achieved. However, I think it is clear that some of us are of the firm view that no guideline is desirable.
  • We could insert into "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)" a short guideline simply stating that apart from situations where there is evidence that a person wishes to have his or her nationality stated in a particular way, there is currently no consensus on the issue, and in the case of the UK provide a link to a non-official essay that summarizes possible options (e.g., "British", "British from Wales [etc.]"; "Welsh, [etc.]") for editors who would like some views on the matter.

The upshot of adopting the second suggestion is that no editor can justify reverting an edit (for example, reversing the insertion of "English" in place of "British") made by another editor on the ground that there is "consensus" on the matter. — Cheers, JackLee talk 23:46, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

That’s not a terrible idea, Jack – though I first thought that such guidelines are a bit 'wishy-washy'. But I can understand why some people who don’t understand the UK might look here for guidance (though I maintain that researching via the relevant WP links is better!). And it would give the state of play, though I doubt 'consesus' is used that much as a reason for changes - most people I feel are correcting to what they personally feel is 'right' for the article! I wrote a very long ‘Points Against’ that was a bit like an essay. I didn’t post it here as things have quietened down so much - and it was very long! It seemed a bit churlish as things stood - and this page is getting pretty big as it is! I was thinking of posting it on Wikimedia (with just a link from here) – but Essays might be better still. Somebody could do it for the ‘For’ arguments, and they both (including any others too of course - could be linked from a note of sorts).

One part my Points Against (pasted below) did offer the idea of a partial-guideline – but it still has intrinsic problems! Perhaps something even simpler (like you suggest) could work, though? I’ve copied the relevant part below. I had earlier questioned whether ‘Style’ is the right place for the guideline, anyway.


  • The related ‘non-sovereign nations flag guideline’, after saying we ‘should’ use the sovereign flags, ended up saying how people have (and will have) different ideas in the UK! It is very wishy-washy too – I’m surprised (and worried) that it got through! It is in prose, rather than point form, and it’s reasonable to see it as a pointer to what is most likely to develop here (in order for the proposal gets passed). Why show bias and risk offence with something like that? Even at best, it could only be something like;


  • ‘People have strongly opposing ideas on the relative importance of labels such as UK, Britain, British, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and English. Consensus has consistently not been found for a point-by-point guideline.
  • In the event of not being able to choose which label fits best in a new situation, we recommend looking at what others have done in similar situations, and/or to consider using the relevant Discussion page to ask for help. If still in doubt, consider leaving it open for someone who has a better feeling for it, or deferring it to someone else. You can always post a request in Discussion for the label to be inserted. Please respect other people’s points of view! It is okay to ‘Be Bold’ and make your choice, but remember that disagreement may arise.
  • Before changing an existing label, it is wise to have a solid grounding on the subject (the UK and it’s ‘constituent nations’). Repeatedly changing an expressed consensus to your own preference is strongly discouraged. This behaviour can lead to action being taken by Wikipedia, where all related interaction is considered.’


  • It’s a kind of notice of affairs, non-directing guideline, and fair warning of the rules (I don’t know them in detail). Like a more rigid guideline though, it would only have merit if it didn’t step on anyone’s toes. It’s ADVANTAGES could be that it discourages further shenanigans in here (though this isn’t guaranteed of course), it is somewhere to go for confused people who are looking in ‘guidelines’ for help, and it’s a chance to simply offer a few words of advise on WP. It’s DISADVANTAGES are that it can be seen as contentious in itself! It mentions the labels (ascribing them value), it makes people hesitate, it makes it an issue, it highlights the negative word ‘disagreement’ (or whichever word is used here), it’s a bit anti-‘be bold’ (the WP philosophy for contributing), it’s a bit ambiguous in places (what constitutes a ‘similar situation’? or a ‘grounding’?), and it’s a bit ‘heavy’ - when few problems actually occur as things stand (sudden conflicts can happen anyway, of course - guideline or no). It also brings up the issue of exactly when consensus in a discussion is reached, and whether it is 100% valid – these are hard things to formulate (though someone who better knows the rules regarding arbitration etc would improve it here).


  • An appropriate place might be the rather empty (and controversial in itself?) ‘Wikipedia:Naming conventions (identity)’. If it had to be in Style, ‘Manual of Style (The United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) - related biography articles)’ would be to follow the style of a group of examples already set, such as on Russia and China - though none of them currently include details on constituent nations.--Matt Lewis 00:28, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

Arbitrary section break

(Deindent) For what it's worth, here is what Wikipedia:Manual of Style (flags)#Use of flags for non-sovereign states and nations says in this area:

The exact definition of a "state", "nation" or "country" is often politically divisive and can result in debates over the choice of flag. For example, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are referred to by the British government as "countries" within the United Kingdom [3]; the Canadian government recently recognised the Québécois as "a nation within a united Canada.";[4] and the United States recognizes many Native American tribal groupings as semi-independent "nations". Some people may feel stronger identification with such entities than with the wider state of which they are a citizen, and editors sometimes choose, for example, to use an English flag rather than a British one. Such choices can cause debates, or can sometimes mislead if the editor's own political bias is the motivation for the choice, and does not represent the views of the article subject.
In general, if a flag is felt to be necessary, it should be that of the sovereign state (e.g. the United States of America or Canada) not of a subnational entity, even if that entity is sometimes considered a "nation" or "country" in its own right. This is partly for the sake of consistency across Wikipedia, but also because a person's legal citizenship is verifiable, whereas "nationality" within a country can be porous, indeterminate and shifting; an English person's passport describes them as "British", for example, not "English", and being English is a matter of self-identification, not verifiable legality in most cases. Many editors, however, feel that the UK's subnations in particular are an exception, most especially in sporting contexts, and disputes are likely to arise if this sovereign state maxim is enforced in articles on subnational British topics.

...and of course the reverse applies as well as some of the examples linked show.

In terms of whether we need guidelines or not, I think frankly something has to be set down covering the UK, not least because so many Wikipedia policies (let alone consensuses) use terms like "country", "nation" and "nationality" without always covering set-ups such as the UK (which is not a unique situation) and individual pages are often left with these arguments that do often drift into how the terms are basically applied. Then even when something has been sorted, someone comes along and changes it "in line with other relevant pages", then others start changing those pages to try and fit everything their way. Currently Tim Henman is described as "a former English tennis player" in spite of the fact that in international tennis the country one plays for is "Great Britain" - these seems to be an overspill of debate about Andy Murray (see Talk:Andy Murray (tennis) for long threads) and note that neither page is currently consistent with Greg Rusedski who is currently just "a former British tennis player". Leaving it to individual article consensus isn't really working since a) a lot of the time consensus seems hard to reach; b) even when consensus can be reached the whole can of worms gets reopened when a biography of another person in the same field becomes an edit war; and, most importantly of all, c) the overall presentation of the information across the encyclopedia is diminished and the reader (who we're doing this for after all) is left confused as to how it all works (and keeping to the tennis examples, this is particularly messy for a sport where in the tournaments that get the most attention in the UK the players play individually but where there are also team tournaments, so it gets very silly when the teams players play for aren't clear). It's clear from a lot of editors that there is both confusion and frustration over the way this debate goes round and round in circles. The point of guidelines and style-guides is to aid people writing so that things are consistent and to avoid having the same fight time and time again. It's not about trying to impose rules of "nationality" onto people. Timrollpickering 17:41, 5 November 2007 (UTC)

I agree with Bluewave and Timrollpickering's recent comments. The reason why I raised this point for discussion in the first place was because I had been using the attribution "British" in some articles, and another editor reverted them on the basis that there was "consensus" the other way, which I couldn't find any evidence of. As regards the use of a veto in discussions, that is not my understanding of how Wikipedia works. I quote from "Wikipedia:Consensus": "Minority opinions typically reflect genuine concerns, and discussion should continue in an effort to try to negotiate the most favorable compromise that is still practical. ... [A] course of action should be chosen that is likely to satisfy the most persons (rather than merely the majority)." [Emphasis added.] Matt, you are probably right that there are other editors out there who agree it is preferable not to have guidelines on this matter. But none of them have chosen to participate in this discussion, even though notice was given on several WikiProject talk pages. Perhaps in future the issue might be reopened for further discussion (see "Wikipedia:Consensus#Consensus can change"), but I think there is consensus at the moment that there do need to be guidelines. — Cheers, JackLee talk 17:56, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Though I understand 'why' some editors prefer using English, Scottish, Welsh and Norther Irisih, it would be soooo much easier to simply use British (particularly for related articles like 2007), sooo much easier. GoodDay 18:10, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
GoodDay, I agree with you, but if there are a significant number of editors who prefer the alternative then I'm willing to accept that, until there's evidence of contrary consensus. — Cheers, JackLee talk 18:34, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
I think we would be wise to take counsel from the flag debate as quoted above, and I think Timrollpickering and Jacklee make very valuable points too. And I would suggest that it is a bad sign that this discussion has reached the low of debating whether a guideline should be put in place at all. The very length of this page and the recurring nature of the debate itself clearly indicate that guidelines of some kind are called for. It is extremely unWiki-like to suggest that the answer is to have no guideline, and it seems disrespectful of those who are trying to solve this very real problem to push to have no guideline at all. I would encourage everyone who's been spending their valuable time trying to problem-solve here not to waste much time debating the unhelpful no guideline suggestion. --Melty girl 19:24, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Ok, good points, and I'm being won over to the "guidelines" side (actually won back - way, way back in time I wanted a British-Irish MOS, and would still advise liasing with the WP:IMOS on this as that is an established MOS that guides language use in Northern Ireland and the 26 counties prior to 1922 and post independence). The problem, I see is what GoodDay comments on - "it would be soooo much easier to simply use British" - yes, so much easier, but we are not in the business of air brushing reality just because it easier to forget the facts. There are, however, things that we can agree on. Timrollpickering points are very enlightening - if a person is known for something which is on a UK(or GB)-wide basis then "British" is better. So, Tim Henman is a British sportsman, but David Beckham is an English sportsman. Likewise, Gordon Brown is a British politician, but Jack McConnell is a Scottish politician. (I am a little touchy about this however, since in my experience Henman is much more a star of England's eye - not to mention the "English tennis player wins/British tennis player loses" fiascos!)
I would also support the use of constructions like this in the info box:
United Kingdom British Citizen (English)
These type of construction almost won consensus before. I only just noticed that the wording in passports in "British Citizen", not simply "British". I don't think it co-incidental, we are not the only people to have argued over this. I wouldn't be surprised if the reason for the "British Citizen" constuction on passports (instead of blanket descriptions of all people as "British") was to overcome the very same difficulty that we are having here. Dealing with reality has it's advantages - other people have usually encountered the same problems before. --sony-youthpléigh 13:34, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
I think United Kingdom UK Citizen (English) is less loaded -- and shorter. --Melty girl 16:18, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
Can go with that too, or  United Kingdom (English). I would not link to mix the two, like: United Kingdom British (English). --sony-youthpléigh 16:50, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
"British Citizen" means something specific under British nationality law: "UK citizen" does not. I would caution against making up terminology, even if it is less loaded. Bluewave 16:53, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
There aren't citizens of the UK? Well, in that case,  United Kingdom (English) is good. --Melty girl 17:09, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting that you can't describe someone as being a citizen of the UK...just that it's not a meaningful designation of nationality! "United Kingdom (English)" looks fine to me, but I suspect the really difficult thing to get consensus on is whether a particular person is "United Kingdom (English)" or "United Kingdom (British)" in cases where there is no citable reference (eg membership of a national sporting team) to suggest which is appropriate. I did a quick straw poll of some friends at the weekend and despite the fact that all of them have spent most of their lives in England (and Britain, of course) they were pretty evenly divided between those who think their nationality is "English" and those who say they are "British". I'm not suggesting my friends are representative of all the subjects of Wikipedia articles, but I think this is one of the central difficulties of resolving UK nationality. Bluewave 17:34, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
We could of course just avoid nationality all together. So, outside of clearly agreed cases (such as British politician, English sportsman, like above - if that is agreed), we just avoid mentioning nationality on UK articles. This, I think it the advantage of "British Citizen" - that it is actually defined, but avoids latbelling nationality. We could add the constituent country greatest association. So, Billy Connolly is a commedian from Scotland, and his infobox says:
United Kingdom British Citizen (Scotland).
In the case of no clearly attributable constiuent country, use United Kingdom. --sony-youthpléigh 17:47, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
Minor capitalization thing occurred to me -- shouldn't it be United Kingdom British citizen (Scotland)? Also, I think your point about calling people "British citizens" as opposed to simply "British" is a sound idea. It emphasizes that legal citizenship/nationality is being discussed, not necessarily cultural identity/consituent country. --Melty girl 16:28, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
I could give a more one sided landslide (although just as annecdotal and unscientific) - during the summer I worked for my college's clearing hotline (for admissions) and the proforma we used asked for enquirer's "nationality" without us giving any clarification about legal vs cultural vs loyalty vs what-someone-tells-you-you-are. Apart from international enquirers, every single response I took down was "British". Timrollpickering 17:46, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
If the hotline dealt with admissions to a college, then by implication any fool could tell that the real question was: "Are you a UK citizen? If not, then are you an EU citizen?" So the significant answer would be "British", as that is the person citizenship. --sony-youthpléigh 17:52, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
Not necessarily. I've certainly heard Scots give their nationality as Scottish when it was obvious that the question being asked was "are you a British citizen?" In fact, I once heard one get very wound up because he couldn't understand "Scottish" wasn't a valid option on the nationality field of a customer service database - he simply couldn't accept that his nationality was British. So while it might be obvious to most of us, it's not a given that the response will be the one we expect. -- Necrothesp 09:12, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. Considering some of the other question produced ambiguous answers that took time to extract the correct information (and many callers were stressed) I doubt every answer was a logical thinking through as to what I was asking the information for. Timrollpickering 10:51, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
If the flag guideline is impressive then why not copy it's style? A few paragraphs explaining the nature of the UK, describing it’s nations, showing how people have gone about things, and ending up on a warning that with the UK ‘many editors do things differently’ and ‘disputes are likely to arise’! I’ll go for that!
PS. Aren’t flags a bit silly by the way? Wikipedia never used to have all this bumph! The union Jack is such a notorious (right wing) and technically ambiguous (no Wales) symbol too! Flag waving - never really liked it, and I’ve got a lovely big red dragon on mine too.
PPS. I thought we realised that ‘British’ is a clear nationality in itself to many (NI unionists esp). It deserves equal footing on the bias front! It’s probably the biggest single reason there are no guidelines! --Matt Lewis 18:04, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
(Dare I repeat it), Sooo much easier to simply use British. GoodDay 18:30, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
The Union Jack (Flag) is "notorious" and "right-wing"? What are you on about? Since when has our national flag been right-wing? Apart from in the opinions of the obsessively PC or obsessively nationalist brigade of course, and they're a tiny minority. Although I do agree with getting rid of flags from Wikipedia - I loathe these silly infoboxes that seem to be springing up everywhere, turning a serious encyclopaedia into what looks like a kids' project. -- Necrothesp 09:22, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
What am I talking about? Certain groups were always comfortable with the Union Jack - the armed forces and royalists in particular. But you can't hide that on the streets it was used as a 'nationalistic' symbol for years (in the pro-white, pro-right way). Embarrassingly, they were not always quite the tiny minority we’d like to believe (and plenty of racism is still around). That bad image was part of the reason why the St George flag has been reclaimed the way it has been recently - though, in my opinion, that was mostly down sporting pride and a growing need for more lucid English identity. The Union Jack didn’t fit – and always had that unfortunate ‘skinhead’ stigma to it. --Matt Lewis 16:51, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
The Union Jack is a 'hate symbol'? GoodDay 16:56, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
Not a common 'hate symbol' - but it does have a stigma due to the way it has been used. Tourists see a lot of it - but we don't exactly fly it outside our houses. A lot of us did in the 1977 Silver Jubilee, but the last (gold?) Jubilee went largely unnoticed in all but the most royal-loving areas. Times change over the years. --Matt Lewis 17:06, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
Glad you agree on the info boxes though - I far prefer prose-like text, myself - and they can look 'child-like' too - you're right. I think I like writing - if it's got to be done (and WP isn't going anywhere, unfortunately), I think using prose, rather than lists, is the way to do it. You can always add the other side when it comes to prose. --Matt Lewis 16:57, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

::::::Again, the Union Jack is a hate symbol??. GoodDay 17:00, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

I don't think the Union Flag is any more a hate symbol than, say, the French Tricolor is a hate symbol because of its use by the far right, and that's still embraced by the French people. Far right groups will always use their national flag - that doesn't make it a hate symbol in the eyes of the majority. It's true that the Cross of St George is increasingly seen in England (although that too has been identified with far right groups, probably more so than the Union Flag), but that's more a response to the increasing use of the Scottish saltire and the Welsh dragon, Scottish and Welsh devolution, and the feeling of a growing number of English people that we are the only one of the three nations of Great Britain who are not "allowed" to express our loyalty to our country without being accused of racism and the other unpleasant aspects of nationalism (and the extremely annoying claims that there's no such thing as an English nation, as opposed to the increasing recognition of Scotland and Wales as nations). It's not a reaction against the Union Flag, but an expression of Englishness and a reaction against growing Scottish and Welsh nationalism and anti-English sentiment (e.g. the number of Scots saying they'd support any team that was playing football or rugby against England - no English person I know would reciprocate that unpleasantly unsporting sentiment).

I also, incidentally, don't think it's true that the Queen's Golden Jubilee went unnoticed - the coverage and the crowds were huge! Maybe we didn't have street parties and the like universally (although I believe there were plenty of them), but that's because the country is a very different place from what it was in 1977 - we just don't generally do that sort of community thing any more. And as my school insisted on doing maypole dances in 1977, thank God I say! -- Necrothesp 17:32, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Is this part of the reason for the resistance to using British in these bio articles? Many editors see the 'Union Jack' as a symbol of hate? or domination?GoodDay 17:40, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
'Domination' is an interesting word - I'm writing a new section attemping to list just the 'against' points of view (which hasn't been properly done yet). I've got an interesting point on how the word 'Britain' (which the Jack, of course, represents) can be perceived... got to get it finished first (its got quite long!)! --Matt Lewis 17:54, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

In Cardiff in 1977 bunting was up and down every other street. Honestly, with the Golden Jubilee, no one round here celebrated (visibly at least) at all. we haven't lost that much sociability! No-one wanted the bunting, and no-one wanted the fervour. I can see certain areas of England (some in the East End of London maybe?) still going for it though.

PS. I love the English, I just don't want to see them win anything. --Matt Lewis 17:44, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

But I'm talking about British not English. GoodDay 18:06, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
RE 'the English... winning' - the above was to Necrothesp (re his cheesed-off comment on the Scottish! The Welsh are a bit like that to!). --Matt Lewis 18:32, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
This Arbitrary Break sub section is a pain. All this 'flag talk' belongs at Wikipedia: Manual of Style (flags), not here. GoodDay 18:42, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Wikipedia draft essay ready for discussion

Hi, all. Now that the discussion on the matter on this page has concluded, I've prepared the draft of a Wikipedia essay on the matter entitled "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (people from the United Kingdom)", incorporating some suggestions by Matt Lewis. Views on how the essay may be improved are welcome on its talk page. I also suggest adding the underlined sentence indicated below to "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)":

The opening paragraph should give: ...

3. Nationality.

3a. In the normal case this will mean the country of which the person is a citizen or national, or was a citizen when the person became notable. Note that there is presently no consensus as to how this guideline should apply to people from the United Kingdom.
3b.Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability.

— Cheers, JackLee talk 02:49, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Following a discussion on the essay's talk page in which the view was expressed that calling the essay "Manual of Style" was misleading as it suggested the guidelines are official when they aren't, the essay has been renamed "Wikipedia:Nationality of people from the United Kingdom". Its shortcut is WP:UKNATIONALS. Comments are still welcome on the essay as well as on the update to "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)" proposed in the box above. — Cheers, JackLee talk 15:47, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

I'll give it a look soon - try and turn my mind back! I pretty much abandoned my essay too-long and unfinished - well done on getting yours done (not to say I'll necessarily approve course..!). I'll dig mine out and refresh some of my thoughts on it. --Matt Lewis (talk) 16:30, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

It's been almost two weeks since I posted the above notice about the essay, and there have been some useful comments on ways to improve it on its talk page. As there haven't been any objections to the proposed modification to "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)" indicated in the box above, I'm going ahead to make it. Of course, discussion on improving the essay can continue on its talk page. — Cheers, JackLee talk 14:34, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Discussion on draft essay "Wikipedia:Nationality of people from the United Kingdom"

The discussion had been briefly moved to the essay's Talk page - but is now continuing here. For reference, the original discussion of late 2007 is in the section above ^ (still on this page, but 'block archived'). --Matt Lewis (talk) 17:18, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

The Guideline page line

The sentence (or two) appended to the Guideline page has to be 100% right. Given the importance of the page it has to be 100% consensus too!

Having said that, it's up there as a 'work in progress' at the moment - so we need to get to work on it! I am not happy with saying there is '"presently" no consensus for the UK' as there has never been any, and IMO there is no evidence to suggest there ever will be. National identity has been an intrinsically (and expediently) flexible thing for us, as I have argued. I've chaged it to "there is no consenus for the UK". --Matt Lewis (talk) 17:44, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Moving the following 4 comments up to here (hope you don't mind, Jack)--Matt Lewis (talk) 19:07, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
As the editor who prepared the draft essay (based partly on suggestions by Matt Lewis) and amended "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)" to refer to it, the reason why I said "presently no consensus" was because I'm an optimist. Sure, there's no consensus on the issue now, but who's to say there won't be at some stage in the future? Why is it POV to suggest that consensus might be reached among Wikipedians on the matter in the future? But it's a small point; I've no objections to "presently" being dropped.
The essay deals with the UK situation because it arose out of a discussion relating to an article on a UK national. I'm happy if other editors wish to provide examples that might expand the applicability of the article to other countries. But perhaps it would be better to try and agree on the article in its present form first, then start a separate discussion on whether and how it should be expanded. — Cheers, JackLee talk 18:27, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
I've just done that above, Jack - made seperate discussions! You've answered some of them together. I'm trying to get things going again, and to avoid confusion with your essay's Talk page (it's not a 100% fair consensus unless the discussion only goes on in here IMO. Too few editors seemed to notice the talk had been moved - though you did indicate where people could comment, I know.) It's about an official guidline page, remember.--Matt Lewis (talk) 18:35, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
"Why is it POV to suggest that consensus might be reached among Wikipedians on the matter in the future?"
- Jack that's self-evidently 100% POV (especially on Guideline page!) - you've got to let that go! You shouldn't just say 'why?', when I've written so many thousdands of words now trying to explain it - I know I've been completely ignored on the matter, but you don't have to rub it in!!! There has never been consensus on this intrinsically flexible matter, and it is only your POV that there will be. Let's stick to simple hard statements, and logical lines.--Matt Lewis (talk) 18:47, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
OK, I'm letting that point go! The inclusion or exclusion of the word "presently" is not a biggie to me. I thought transferring the discussion over to the essay's talk page seemed a good idea since there is no consensus on the issue so this Manual of Style won't (ever?) deal with the issue directly, but of course am fine with it continuing here if other editors think it appropriate. For discussion purposes, you might want to have two sections: one on whether the essay is all right as it stands, and another one on whether it should be extended to other countries. At the moment the subsection you've got on the second issue is buried in the midst of other subsections about the current essay. — Cheers, JackLee talk 18:55, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
I think we can brainstorm these issues alongside each other, now you've got the basics down in your essay. I don't think changing it to be wider than the UK (if we do) will be that hard. It's could be mostly just wording, with the UK as a principle example(?) - lets discuss in the subsection!--Matt Lewis (talk) 19:13, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

This is currently an essay. Can that change?

I've added a line to say the link is currently an essay - if we ever get it right there maybe another place available for it. --Matt Lewis (talk) 17:44, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Can it, or the guideline, mention other 'areas' (states, nationalities, countries etc)?

I have changed the Guideline page line to: "No consensus exists in some areas of 'Nationality', such as with people from the United Kingdom. There is an essy on people from the United Kingdom that could be used as a guideline for similar collective states, or for areas with disputed rights."

I think the essay might be best expanded(?) It may not be as hard as it seems - and others can add any worthwhile details of examples over time, perhaps. It is UK-centric at the moment simply because Wikipedia is US/UK-centric.--Matt Lewis (talk) 17:44, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

I don't think this will be all that hard to convert. UK can be the principal (or first) example within it. It could develop over time, but it's creation could be just a wording issue. What do you think? I notice Melty Girl has changed my edit above to someting similar, where she has kept the mention of other 'areas' (only less explicitly) - perhaps they can be referred to in the essay? Just an idea. --Matt Lewis (talk) 19:20, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
I don't think this is possible anymore within the essay - it has developed into too detailed a guide.
However, I do think the main guideline "nationality" point should mention complexity and diversity in some way. (not just point to the UK - or the UK talk pages, as it's doing now). Some short 'be aware' line maybe, that suggests searching the column to the right? --Matt Lewis (talk) 16:00, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
I know we should be trying to avoid an overly US/UK-centric approach on Wikipedia generally, however if there are specific problems relating to particular areas or places I don't see a problem in trying to address them as long as you are clear about the scope and limits of what you propose. There are definitely a host of recurring problems relating to description of nationality for people from (or linked with) the United Kingdom. If we can find a consensus for these specific problems then that is a positive practical achievement. If the solution can be used to inform other attempts to solve problems relating to different states or even to provide a basis for universal policy then that would be all well and good - but even if it cannot be used thus then nothing is lost and it is still worthwhile.
The particular difficulties I've encountered relate to living or relatively recently deceased people, so I'm not so concerened with the historical aspects of the discussions (although I recognise their importance). My position is support for the principle that for people whose passport would say "British Citizen" then "British" should be the default descriptor, while "Welsh" or "Scottish" or "English" can be used in cases where:
  • It is uncontested that the subject considers themself Welsh or Scottish or English and is widely known as such (eg. the Sean Connery scenario). Or,
  • There is substantial uncontested evidence that the subject's family were from one particular constituent country and the subject has been associated solely with that constituent country for most of his or her life.
I don't want to get into the debate about Ireland and Northern Ireland because I know of the complexities involved and do not feel I have a level of knowledge sufficient to add anything definitive.
I've only just become aware of this discussion so please try to forgive me if I touch on ground that has been covered previously by participants. Indeed I would add the small criticism that it has been quite hard work to find and follow the debate even though I was previously involved in similar discussions elsewhere on Wiki (eg. Talk:United_Kingdom/Archive_11#Nationality). One clearly needs to be a keen and connected Wikipedian to be sure of being alerted to such events. And even when you come across a reference that leads you to part of the discussion, the trail of separate articles and talk pages is convoluted for a relative amateur like me.
I want to end on a positive note.I think this is a worthwhile effort and I hope a consensus does emerge.
Circusandmagicfan (talk) 19:40, 24 February 2008 (UTC)Circusandmagicfan

Northern Ireland

This bit has been recently edited - it's another part we have to get right before its shown to the world, really.--Matt Lewis (talk) 17:44, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

The main sentence on NI currently reads;
The majority of people from Northern Ireland are also entitled to Irish citizenship, on the same basis as people born in the Republic of Ireland.
Perhaps a further line of detail could come after it? --Matt Lewis (talk) 08:02, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
People of Northern Ireland are also entitled to Irish citizenship, on the same basis as people born in the Republic of Ireland.
Every citizen of Northern Ireland born prior to 2005 can apply for Irish (Republic of Ireland) citizenship. They can have their existing British passport anulled, or hold a dual citizenship. Every baby born in Northen Ireland since 2005 must have at least one Irish or Northen Irish parent, before being accepted for Irish citizenship (regardless of whether they are registered as a British citizen first, and apply to become Irish - or a dual citizen - at a later date).
Current revision (or compression). It can't be that hard at all, but every time I look at this, I go away with a slight headache!--Matt Lewis (talk) 12:45, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
Last line since corrected to "- or a dual citizen -".--Matt Lewis (talk) 13:57, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

Leading on from the message Matt left on my talk. The real trouble of going into any depth of discussing joint citizenship in Northern Ireland is the difficulty in comparing UK and Irish nationality laws. While effectively they are identical, in approach they take very different forms. The Irish system is based on entitlements (e.g. an Irish citizen is a person who is entitled to ...) whereas the British system is more descriptive (e.g. a British citizen is ...). I am an Irish citizen because I am entitled to do things that only an Irish citizen can do. Matt (I presume), you are a British citizen because you are. The Irish system applies in Northern Ireland in exactly the same way as it does in the Republic. It doesn't matter if you were born north or south of the border.

It was not until 2001 that both jurisdictions were made completely equivalent, but this was retroactive. (In most circumstances it wouldn't have mattered anyway, as the changes applied to jus soli only - citizenship by descent, including "from birth", applied to nearly everyone in Northern Ireland anyway owing the the messy way that partition came about). The current situation, regardless of the legal differences between the two systems, is that a Northern Ireland person is both British and Irish citizen "by default" (in citizenship, not identity). If they want to give up one or the other you need to explicitly apply to do so in writing to the relevant British or Irish authorities. The British-Irish agreement explains the situation as it is without the legal fuss:

Finally, there appears to be some confusion about the parental restrictions. A change was made in 2005 (requiring a constitutional amendment). Before then the Republic had an unlimited implementation of jus soli. Changing this only brought the Republic in line with the rest of Europe (the UK had made a similar change in 1982). In fact, it was the question of Northern Ireland that finally forced it. A Chinese citizen, temporarily resident in Wales, was advised to give birth in Belfast so that her child would be an Irish citizen, and so she (through her child) would be entitled to permanent residency in the UK. Describing the post-2005 parental restriction is meaningless, the previous absence of it being the more notable thing. --sony-youthpléigh 01:28, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

OK I think I get it now, but we have to get it right in terms of help for the guideline - so people are aware of the different nationality labels exist in NI. How about this?
"Note on Northern Ireland nationality (British, Irish and dual citizenships)
Northern Ireland: British, Irish and dual citizenships
People of born in Northern Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship by default (Irish citizenship being a fundamental "entitlement", that extends to all of the island). This automatically allows for 'dual' British and Irish citizenship. Unequivocal 'single citizenship' can be applied for from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Consequently, Northern Irish people can be British-only, Irish-only, British while flexible on becoming Irish, or explicitly both British and Irish".
Please ammend if incorrect. I can see the ambiguity stems from the 'entitlement' nature to Irish citizenship law.--Matt Lewis (talk) 13:48, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
"of" in "People of Northern Ireland" is really "born in" - hence the Chinese woman. Strictly it is "with a parent born anywhere in Ireland". But immigrants to Belfast etc would not qualify. I'll change to "born in" above anyway. Unless the 2005 change has affected that.Johnbod (talk) 16:01, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm still not 100% confident over this part to be honest - If you make the change in the essay, maybe it will stick. --Matt Lewis (talk) 16:18, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
I know what you mean - I've removed "Grand" above. Here's the official site. Johnbod (talk) 16:25, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

The above text is quite seriously factually incorrect. While it is correct that "People of Northern Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship by default", and also correct that "This automatically allows for dual British and Irish citizenship", it is incorrect to say that "Unequivocal "single citizenship" can be applied for from the UK and Ireland" - there is no facility in the law of either state to apply for "unequivocal single citizenship" (whatever that may be). Under UK law, essentially anyone born in the UK is a UK citizen unless they go through a legal process to renounce it. Anyone asserting his or her right to ROI citizenship does not, therefore, lose his or her UK citizenship. Nor does the ROI state have any power to remove UK citizenship from an existing UK citizen. The conclusion "Consequently, Northern Irish people can be Irish only ..." is nonsensical. I also suggest that saying that Northern Irish people can be "British while flexible on becoming Irish" is a meaningless statement.

I suggest simply this: People > born in Northern Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship by default (Irish citizenship being a fundamental "entitlement", that extends to all of the island). This automatically allows for dual British and Irish citizenship. Mooretwin (talk) 12:00, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Bad faith?

I consider it to be borderline bad faith that the creation of this new 'essay' was not notified to the relevant WikiProjects. That failure casts into severe doubt the motives for this. --Mais oui! (talk) 07:06, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

The idea was borne more out of naivety (in my opinion), and couldn’t initially be stopped - so a reasonable 'consensus' for someone to try an essay eventually came about when discussion had petered out (no one complained) – though there was certainly no consensus for it to be prematurely displayed, as it has been. The motivation was essentially to make Wikipedia a ‘simpler’ place! I’ve always argued this motivation was unfairly anti-diversity, and intrinsically pro-British.
The talk is (and has) been going on in the above Talk page (it was only briefly in here). Please contribute – there is much in the essay that needs to be looked at by members of the various home nation Wikiprojects (eg. the tone, the examples of use, even the validity of the whole exercise). A lot of my own revisions to it could be innappropriate - I still don't mind if the whole thing goes, though I can at least accept some kind of way through it now, which I didn't originally. Perhaps if it sticks, it should only ever remain as an essay - albeit a high-profile one - which might not be decided is right anyway. Everyone should know about it, for sure.--Matt Lewis (talk) 10:57, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
The essay grew out of an extended discussion on the issue on the talk page of "Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)". All the relevant WikiProjects were notified of this discussion, and I believe a number of members of these projects participated. Subsequently, after I had completed the first draft of the essay, I posted a further notice announcing it on that talk page. Perhaps I should have thought of also posting fresh notices on the talk pages of the WikiProjects, but it simply didn't occur to me to do so. I figured that anyone who had been interested in the matter would have been watching the "Manual of Style (biographies)" talk page. — Cheers, JackLee talk 16:29, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
OK, I've placed announcements on all the talk pages of the relevant WikiProjects. — Cheers, JackLee talk 16:56, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
This is categorically not bad faith - one should assume good faith per policy anyway!
Personally I like this essay. I think something about WP:MOSFLAG ought to be mentioned too however. Other than that it gets the thumbs up from me. -- Jza84 · (talk) 16:59, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
-- And something about people from the pre-Acts of Union times (i.e. Shakespeare is always English, not British!). -- Jza84 · (talk) 17:01, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
Will amend the notices I posted in the WikiProject talk pages. — Cheers, JackLee talk 22:58, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

This essay doesn't seem to address anything before 1800

The UK was formed in 1801. We have quite a few biographies about people that lived in Great Britain before the formation of the UK, and many of those articles are subject to the same debates as mentioned in this essay. For example, many days were wasted debating whether Mary Wollstonecraft was "British" or "English" (or even "Anglo-Irish"). Perhaps something could be mentioned about how to handle people from Great Britain as well. Kaldari (talk) 19:11, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm attempting a brief 'Timeline' here - with examples for each main 'era' (43AD onwards). I'll create a discussion for it on the main biog Talk, when I've done it. --Matt Lewis (talk) 20:29, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
Regarding your latest updates to the essay:
  • I feel the relevance of the subsection "Celtic heritage within the British Isles" is doubtful. It's very interesting, but are we now suggesting that people ought also to consider using the appellations "Irish Gaelic", "Scottish Gaelic", "Welsh", "Manx" and "Cornish"? If so, this needs further discussion.
  • The idea of having a timeline is good, but I feel it may be a bit confusing for people trying to find an answer to, say, the question "How should I refer to Emery Molyneux, who lived in England in the 16th century"? Perhaps it would be better to rearrange the table in the following form, so that editors can identify an appropriate appellation to use according to where in Britain a person is or was from and what era he or she lived in:
Part of British Isles Date
Events Suggested appellations Example
Whole 43500 Roman invasion of the Celtic tribes of Britannia. "Britain" is often used to refer to "Britannia". "Ancient Briton" or "Brython" (not "British") Boudica
Scotland 5001707 Consolidation of Scotland "Scottish" or "Scots" (the Scots are a composition of various ethnic groups, including the Picts and Gaels) Robert the Bruce
1707–present Unification of Scotland with England and Wales See "Modern-age naming methods in use" Angus Purden
— Cheers, JackLee talk 18:06, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
The way I look at it, it's more about showing what people do do, rather than advising them about any specific way to go. What is 'appropriate' is often a mix. The examples show that people already do use Cornish and Manx - I'm just documenting that, rather than suggesting it should be done. The article has loads of caveats. It was never going to be simple, or all that short. (Scottish and Irish gaelic, Welsh etc are only languages - not sure what point you made there).
I'm trying to infuse a little flavour, just to show people that the UK is involved, and not simple - it shows them what they are up against better than only bullet points can, imo. If it was easy to find the appellation that they needed, they would hardly need to consult a guide, after all!
The actual 'Celtic' issue is crucial to the UK (it means nothing to some, but to others it means everything). Remember Scotland in 2010! The cliche, or joke, by the way, is that Anglo-Saxons are cooler, and the celts are warmer (so to speak). It's hard to explain something which can be so meaningless on one hand, yet in certain situations can mean so much on the other (not least politically).
I'll look at your suggestions for rearranging the timeline. --Matt Lewis (talk) 19:12, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
I realize that "Scottish Gaelic", etc., are languages, judging from what you mentioned in the essay, but it is possible also to use at least some of them to refer to "nationality" in the broadest sense of the term (e.g., "Cornish" and "Manx"), and I was using them as examples to seek clarification on why this matter was referred to in the essay at all. Flavour or not, I think something more needs to be explicitly said to tie the discussion about the Celtic heritage in the British Isles with the nationality issue, otherwise it is rather confusing to the reader. — Cheers, JackLee talk 23:09, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

On the essay itself

The stated intent is having a standard way of doing things, eventually arriving at proposed rules conventions. The use of such descriptives is implicitly ambiguous and varies by context and circumstance, IMHO. An acceptance of things like that, from Whitman's Leaves of Grass:

     Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I do.
     I am immense. I can contain contradictions.

So can the UK (I have no say here). And so can Wikipedia. Just my 2 cents 0.010197 GBP worth. Notuncurious (talk) 02:50, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Two minor objections

  • "Under British law, these four countries are an equal union" - that's entirely inaccurate. An 'equal union' implies equality of parts, but that has never been the intention - the intention was to form an entirely new country where the constituent parts were irrelevant - British law represents the equality of individuals and parliamentary constituencies, not the equality of four countries.
When did the intention for a new country occur? Scotland always had its own laws anyway. Certainly Scotland expected to keep being Scottish when the union was formed (ie no specific subservience to England - Catholic issues etc excepted). Regarding British law, is there nothing on equality over the countries? If it says equality for all individuals - you could say that amounts to the same thing. The word 'Union' is in the 'UK' - surely it must be mentioned in the law somewhere - even if it's very old law (as a lot of law is). --Matt Lewis (talk) 21:55, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
  • The number of minority language speakers are presented as a percentage in some constituent countries and not others. Seems to be no real justification for this omission. --Breadandcheese (talk) 12:56, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
I've added the Scottish percentages, I'll look at Cornish and Manx. --Matt Lewis (talk) 21:55, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

A title change? Bring in historical use?

The current title is Nationality of people from the United Kingdom. I'm not sure it fully covers it any more. A small change would be:

Example: "Nationality of citzens of the United Kingdom".

I think "of" is stronger than "from", and "citizens" is more defining still. Alternatives could be along the lines of:

Example: "Nationality and the United Kingdom"
Example: "Nationalities of the current United Kingdom"
Example: "Nationality labels within the United Kingdom"

I think "label" is preferable to "identity" (which is broader than just nationality).

Historical use:

On the other hand, the article has become of more historical use (which I think is great, and gives it a lot more purpose) - is there an argument for changing the title to fully cover this? (as someone has suggested in an edit note). Keeping to "people" (or "peoples"?) rather than "citizen" might be better in this case. We don't really need to mention 'people' at all, of course.

Example: "Nationality labels of the United Kingdom"
Example: "Guide to nationality labelling and the United Kingdom"
Example: "Guide to nationality labelling throughout UK history" (or some such title)
British Isles?

If we use the useful "British Isles" it would have to include Ireland - which may not be such a bad idea, given the historical cultural cross-over.

Example: "Nationality and the British Isles"
Example: "Nationality and the British Isles (including the UK and Ireland)"
Example: "Guide to nationality and the British Isles"
Example: "Nationality within the British Isles"
Example: "Nationality labelling within the British Isles"
Example: "Guide to nationality labelling within the British Isles (including the United Kingdom and Ireland)"

An advantage of using the "British Isles is that it would cover any future changes to the UK - as the British Isles will always remain.

Stay concise

Ireland already features in the guide - would it become too complicated to fully include it? Bearing in mind, of course, that we must keep the guide as consise as possible - as it's meant to be an 'easy to use' guide to the currently-used (and most apposite choice of) label usage. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

If anyone is interested, I have made this page in my user space - Nationality within the British Isles (including the United Kingdom and Ireland). It is essentially the same page, but covering the British Isles. Feel free to edit it and comment on it. It needs better maps, and some details on Ireland etc. (also the probs below still need addressing) --Matt Lewis (talk) 23:58, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
A couple of resources:
Wikipedia articles that link to the Brtitish Isles page
Talk:British Isles/name debate
British Isles naming dispute
If using the "British Isles" is going to cause too much offence (which I personally think is as silly as renaming the Irish Sea), but if it does, I would suggest "Nationality labelling within the United Kingdom and Ireland". Only the geographical term fully defines it, though.--Matt Lewis (talk) 15:27, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

I would absolutely agree with the necessity to include the Republic of Ireland - as well as Mann and the Channel Islands - in the page, as it is quite artificial to discuss Northern Ireland without reference to the Republic and artificial to refer to the United Kingdom without reference to Northern Ireland (and indeed Ireland as a whole). It's the wider area that's confusing for people and thus, while "United Kingdom' covers most, it doesn't cover everything. However, I would avoid using the term British Isles (I largely agree with your comments on the BI page, BTW), at least in the title. I'd go for, "Nationality in Britain and Ireland" or similar - aside from any other reason it would not risk alienating many Irish editors. --sony-youthpléigh 22:22, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

I see what you mean about the Irish editors! Problem is they way I react to bullying - I don't know if I can bite my lip. I'd rather use British Isles, as it is simply the geographical term designed for this very use. What appeases the anti-BI Irish, is set to offend others (not that some of them seem to care about that!). From the beginning I have argued for no weight either way (especially towards 'British') - it's almost as impossible as I originally thought it would be (when I said a guideline is totally foolish). I just think it's so bloody immature to apply 'weight' to a geographical term like the British Isles! They call it their "future" - what morbid stupidity! I'm going to dream of every pub being an Irish pub tonight. Where does the madness of nationality end! How about "Nationality in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Ireland"? There is always "Nationality in the British Islands and Ireland" - which is in effect the same as your "Nationality in Britain and Ireland". --Matt Lewis (talk) 03:03, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

It think it's time for an essay title change. I suggest either:

  • Nationality labelling of Ireland and the United Kingdom
  • Nationality labelling of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom
  • Nationality labelling of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

It's alphabetical. Any comments? Which of these is best: 'of', 'in', 'within', 'and' etc...? I'm leaning towards 'of' - it seems to cover the chronological aspect the best.--Matt Lewis (talk) 17:33, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Any thoughts here? Perhaps people could state their own preference? (even if it is not to change the exisiting title). If the essay is to include Ireland at all (and I can't see how it cannot now it's chronological) I feel this needs to happen soon.
How about "Nationality labelling in Ireland and the United Kingdom"? Proving the curtailed names don't matter - it is short and sweet. I don't mind "Nationality labelling in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" either (including the word British word might be useful to some).-
Can a title be long? -
"Nationality labelling guide for the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including England, Scotland, Wales and the British Islands)"
Can anyone argue with the last one? Maybe this is one large subject that demands one large title! I favour adding "labelling" but it doesn't have to of course.-Matt Lewis (talk) 20:43, 24 March 2008 (UTC)



OK, some Ireland detail has been brought in, so I'll address that as a possible start towards a new "British Isles"-related essay title. The Anglo-Irish section looks like it could be fine to me (though maybe a touch too wordy, as it stands?). The row below it I think needs work though:

Date (CE) Event Event-related nationality Example of use
1607 - mid-1600s Flight of the Earls, Plantation of Ulster The Gaelic order in Ireland collapses following protracted war with England and central English authority is consolidated in Ireland. A hundred thousand English and Scottish settlers are "planted" in Ulster to ensure a quash resistance in the province, sowing communal differences that underly the modern conflict in Northern Ireland. English, Welsh Scots Irish

Does it need both events? (the plantation event seems to deal more with nationality labels). It needs to be made clear under 'Event' that it's in Ireland. Is the 'Event-related nationality' Ulster-Scott? (Why then Scotts-Irish? - is that used instead?) It needs an 'example of use' added.


I find this row on Scotland confusing - it needs wiki-links to follow (I can't find "south of Forth") and needs to be fully self-explaining too. Does it need all those examples?:

Date (CE) Event Event-related nationality Example of use
300-1200 (excluding Galloway c. 900-1230s ) south of Forth before 1200s British or English/Anglo-Saxon/etc (depending on culture) British or English (depending on culture) Run of Alt Clut, Owen the Bald, or, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Heathored

Also, can someone fill out the bit on "Gaels and Picts" in the Scottish row above this - just a line or two of detail will do (nothing too much). Does that row need so many 'examples of use' too? - do any of them duplicate?

I'm sure we can make it work, providing we always remember it's ultimately a usage guide, and not specifically about the histories.--Matt Lewis (talk) 03:36, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

Historical accuracy?

The article currently talks about Wales becoming unified with England under the Tudors in the 16th century. A large part of South Wales was annexed during the Norman Conquest and its aftermath (eleventh century) however, and there was much fighting and conquest in the Northern area under the reign of Edward I (End of 13th/start of 14th century). Witness the many castles built along the North Welsh coast during this period by both sides! Historical documents relate to Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, known as the "Prince of Wales" - whose title was given to Edward I's son Edward II to indicate his new belief in his 'overlordship' of the Northern Welsh lands (Gwynedd in particular)...lets not ignore the mediaeval side of British history if we're going to discuss inter-nationality conflicts, surely? The reign of Edward I is particularly significant in terms of Anglo-Welsh and Anglo-Scottish conflict!! --Etherella (talk) 21:38, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

Hi, Matt. Bearing in mind, as you said, that the essay is ultimately intended to be a guide to editors on how to refer to the nationality of people from Britain and Ireland and not an article about the history of the British Isles, have you (and other editors, of course) given thought to my suggestion above to convert the timeline into a table according to location within the British Isles and date? — Cheers, JackLee talk 00:39, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

(Removing) Celtic heritage

Why was the Celtic heritage and usage table removed? DuncanHill (talk) 22:06, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

Not sure myself. I found this edit to be unconstructive and significant to warrent discussion first. I'm inclined to restore it. --Jza84 |  Talk  22:42, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
Hi, I made the edit you're referring to. I pruned some parts of the article mainly because it was duplicating information in other pages, and that the information in the other pages was better and more up to date. I added references to the articles, so no information was lost. For example the celtic heritage table is replicated in the Celtic nations article, etc. Bardcom (talk) 01:28, 23 March 2008 (UTC)
I believe you removed alot of context for readers though. There is no harm duplicating stuff here from mainspace articles. --Jza84 |  Talk  11:19, 23 March 2008 (UTC)
Hi Jza84, thank you for your response. I don't understand your assertion that a lot of context is removed? Much of the information removed provides background info on the history of the UK, and it's culture, etc. This information is not necessary here - this essay is to help people decide how to assign UK nationality to people in articles. There was far too much non-essential information duplicated for such a simple topic. The big danger with duplication is that if information is updated (for example, census information on Gaelic speakers - as was the case here), only the main article will get updated, and the duplicated information will fall out of date, etc. Bardcom (talk) 12:44, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

I've taken the essay back to where it was before this edit - initially because I thought too much was done all at once, and I also have issues with the reasons for it.

  • I’m not sure the 'content fork' argument works here - it is more info to update - but as this essay is a ‘form’ of guideline page, it is surely perfectly fine in this case. The essay needs to cover the contexts for sure - we've found it's impossible without doing this. Certainly it is not in an ideal state yet (espectially the history parts) - I've put requests here for help, maybe we should look elsewhere for help too.
  • The term "British Isles" needs to be properly included in the essay, though personally I'm happy now to remove it from the prospective new-title list (as some Wikipedians will always argue for its removal). But the edit in question made only one single “See also” reference to it – and to what is ultimately the name-dispute page - not to the main “British Isles” article. This essay is about covering the terms, not removing them - we can't remove it from the essay. Regarding the "losing context" argument Jza84 mentioned above - I would agree, and add that the new 'linked context' here is a biased one. I think we should work on the representation of the "British Isles" term, rather than choose which page/pages to link a footnote to.

The reason the essay got so involved was because avenues kept appearing that needed to be covered. Eventually we will cover it all properly - and if we can't do that - then it is simply a bad idea to have at all (which was always my tough line on it from the start). --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:33, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Hi Matt, I've reverted your undo of my edit - no consensus was reached here first. My undo is based on a couple of points. Content fork is a perfectly good reason to remove the Celtic history section, and it is not relevant to the primary purpose of the essay. You can make reference to celtic heritage where required, if required, but I did not see any where in the essay that required this section. I was tempted to remove it altogether. You also say that the term "British Isles" needs to be properly included in the essay. This would be a mistake as you would be mixing a geographical term with a political discussion, and the term is contentious. Creating an essay that tries to include Ireland in a discussion on nationalities of the UK could be construed as reckless trolling. Bardcom (talk) 16:19, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
I've revert your change Bardcom per Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle. You removed massive amounts of text without discussion or a good rationale. Please acheive a consensus to remove this. I'm not satisfied with the reasons you've given so far. The material restored is very helpful. --Jza84 |  Talk  16:22, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
I've explained why it was removed, and I responded to other concerns. Your comments contain weasel words designed to exaggerate the issue. I did not remove massive amounts of text in the way you suggest. I merely removed duplicated text. Nothing is lost. And I linked to the appropriate articles. Also, you say that no good rationale was given. On the contrary, this appears to be your opinion, whereas the fact is that I did give a good rationale, and you have seen it and already commented on it. I replied to your concerns and received no response in turn - instead you chose to undo the edit. This isn't how wikipedia works, and it is rude behaviour. In the interests of having a discussion, can you help me understand why the contexts are required to be in the essay and why redirects aren't better? Can you also help me understand why it is even necessary to have a detailed Celtic history section at all. It is not even referred to in the article. Rather than knee jerk reactions, please try to remember that my edits were made in good faith, to improve the article, and do not deserve two reverts without arguing for their inclusion. Bardcom (talk) 16:46, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
What policy are you alluding to that states "duplicated text" should be removed? You seem to object to "British Isles" and "Celtic heritage" but you've removed far more, including historical examples of nationality. Where is that table found elsewhere on Wikipedia?
Your edits were made in good faith, but with a negative impact I believe. Please also remember to assume good faith yourself. I'm not satisfied with your reasoning still for such a massive edit. The text was very, very helpful, I believe. --Jza84 |  Talk  17:01, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Yes, you keep saying very very helpful, but not once have you or Matt actually pointed out why it was required for this article. I directly asked you the question already, and you have yet to respond. You are correct that I object to the article being expanded to include the British Isles, reason given above in response to Matt as you should have seen already. It is a contentious term and is not required if you are only talking about the UK. My changes improve the quality of the article. It keeps the article short and to the point. You have yet to make your case as to why the information removed is required to be in the article beyond vague assertions of "very very helpful". You have yet to make your case as to what point is not being made by the article if the information is removed. I await your response. --Bardcom (talk) 17:18, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Bardcom, your large reductive edit is not an immediate consensus! I also am not happy at all with your rationale: I've fully explained above the questions you are re-asking here. What do you think of my reasoning? It is wrong to say no-one has addressed your concerns - I (and Jza84) have taken the time to do so.
I do not agree that you have fully explained the questions I asked. The essay is a manual of style on how to phrase the opening paragraph for people in the UK. Great! The version of the essay I changed had grown over time and needed trimming. Why does it not make sense to refer to other articles rather than duplicate them? The closest I've seen to a reason is helpful, and I believe in the long term it will not be helpful. Bardcom (talk) 17:39, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Only a handful of people in my experience would choose to see Ireland's inclusion in this essay as "reckless trolling"! Please don't bring the OTT language of the "British Isles debate" into here!! It became apparent that we needed to cover the UK choronologically - people simply kept requesting it! It them became a "primary importance" of the essay - it's now chronological. There was no other reason than demand - and the histories of "the UK" and Ireland have simply crossed paths. The is the place to show how it has been detailed - with even a space to say what happened. Perhaps you don't think that space is enough? (it's flexible).
In my view, trying to force fit Ireland into an essay on Nationality of people in the United Kingdom *is* trolling, and *is* reckless. If you are familiar with the ongoing debates, you would already know this. Since you obviously do, it begs the question on why you think it is necessary. You say that people simply kept requesting it. Can you point me to some of these requests please - I can't find any on either this talk page or essay talk page. Bardcom (talk) 17:39, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Nobody has 'forced' anything! Ireland simply was part of the UK - and historically speaking that's simply an empirical truth. It doesn't mean that 19/20 century people like Oscar Wilde have to be called "British"! This essay has simply become a chronological guide! Why shouldn't it? You go on about "good faith" - why do you contest my statement that many requests have been made for a historical use? I will now spend some of my valuable time collecting them all together for you, so you don't have to bother looking - gee thanks. Why would they not be made!? In retrospect, it was guaranteed (though I myself didn't foresee it going that way at first). You need very good arguments to stop a clear natural process like this! You might not like the past, but you can't change it. --Matt Lewis (talk) 21:09, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps you can also comment in the section on a title change that would cover Ireland.--Matt Lewis (talk) 17:16, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
I don't believe that an essay covering more than the United Kingdom is appropriate. I believe the essay should focus on being a short sharp article on the United Kingdom. Bardcom (talk) 17:39, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
But ignoring all historical biogs, obviously! --Matt Lewis (talk) 21:09, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Bardcom, a point of communication; UKNATIONALS is an essay, not an article. Please be mindful of that distinction. I also await your response to my queries on what policies you are alluding to. Certainly, Wikipedia is not censored, so your objections at certain terms as a justification to remove parts of an essay are nullfied per policy. Again, where is that table found elsewhere on Wikipedia? I'm with Matt Lewis on this all the way I'm afraid. --Jza84 |  Talk  17:41, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Jza84, stop trying to put words in my mouth. I never alluded to any policy, it's common sense and good practice to not duplicate information in several places. Also, please no personal attacks - you imply that I am trying to censor this article. I am not, and your attempts to make me look like the "bad guy" are in bad faith. Please behave. This essay, while not currently being promoted as an article, is also not being promoted as a short personal point of view essay. Several authors have worked on this
In addition, the table you refer to more aptly belongs to the article Celtic nations and I propose to move it there. It is a useful table. This table was only added to the article by Matt in Feb, and is unnecessay - as is the entire history lesson.
You have also ignored the questions I asked you above. I am still awaiting your response. Why is it necessary to duplicate information when a link and suitable small quotations can make the same point. Why is the celtic history section there at all? Who are the people that asked for the article to be expanded - where are the references? Bardcom (talk) 19:05, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
It's about context. Stop shouting that you are being "ignored", and just read a few things instead. This is a chronological guide and I'm now tediously compiling the "proof" you have lazily demanded that people have requested a historical use here! --Matt Lewis (talk) 21:14, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Examples of consensus for historical use:
I can remember an earlier comment (from last year I think) that specifically stated the need for historical use – but it no-doubt didn’t use the keyword I’m searching for: I’m not going to trawl through for it. I have found these (using "historical" as a search, and spotting some others as I went):
  • This essay doesn't seem to address anything before 1800. Perhaps something could be mentioned about how to handle people from Great Britain as well. Kaldari (talk) 19:11, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
  • lets not ignore the mediaeval side of British history if we're going to discuss inter-nationality conflicts, surely? The reign of Edward I is particularly significant in terms of Anglo-Welsh and Anglo-Scottish conflict!! Etherella (talk)
  • The particular difficulties I've encountered relate to living or relatively recently deceased people, so I'm not so concerned with the historical aspects of the discussions (although I recognise their importance). Circusandmagicfan (talk)
  • This does not include the many times in debate it has become clear that we have found that the problem with the term “British” was that it needs its historical context explained!! To pick one of many: “Problem 4: Historically "English" and "British" were often used interchangeably” Timrollpickering
  • The idea of having a timeline is good, JackLee
  • And something about people from the pre-Acts of Union times (i.e. Shakespeare is always English, not British!). -- Jza84 • (talk) 17:01, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Why was the Celtic heritage and usage table removed? DuncanHill (talk)
Contributors to the history elements have been:
Matt Lewis, Sony-youth, MurphiaMan, Deacon of Pndapetzim, JackLee (in Talk) (and possibly others).
Maybe one or two of these did not originally want it (I don't know) - but they've all accepted it. Also, if someone says this: “I think this is a worthwhile effort and I hope a consensus does emerge.” I think it constitutes is a thumbs up. It’s a lot of people (12 unique editors), considering the total amount in the debate (which is fairly low). You are the first one to kick up such a fuss against it! (rather than want to edit it). I would presume there are many not mentioned who are perfectly fine with the chronological element - including those who have simply read the essay and not found reason to comment.--Matt Lewis (talk) 22:15, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Scotland (law making powers?)

(moved from article's Talk)

"Scotland has always had its own law-making powers". This is not true; Scotland has always had its own separate legal system (see the entry on Scots law) but as that article makes clear, from 1707 to 1999 it shared a legislature with England, i.e. the Houses of Parliament in London passed laws for Scotland. Since the statement is irrelevant it might just be removed rather than corrected. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:53, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Changed line to "Scotland has always had its own legal system", rather than remove.

I know it's just an essay but...

  • ...the first two sections ("Constituent countries" of the UK" and "Timeline (with historical examples)") read like something from the main namespace rather than the Wikipedia: namespace, and make the sort of assumptions and omissions that prick the same sensitivities that presumably motivated its writing. What would the essay lose by simply deleting all those sections?
  • ...real examples are best. Irish Murdoch and George Best are much more illuminating than Muira McClair.
  • ...does the essay relate only to modern people? For example: is Clive of India English or British? His article is silent on this.

jnestorius(talk) 06:03, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments.
  • You will need to explain what you feel the "assumptions and omissions that prick the same sensitivities that presumably motivated its writing" are! This is a kind-of 'cross-over' essay re namespace, as some essays are. It's a bit early for it, though, I would agree.
  • I agree real examples are the most illuminating, but there are times when it is best to make up a name! The essay is principally for people who have little or no knowledge of the UK (and consequently Ireland). Perhaps the greatest difficulty is making it right for people who have it though!
  • The essay has made inroads in the history of the UK (and consequently Ireland) - it certainly needs improvement. Perhaps the Clive of India editors felt he was better represented without a nationality title? Maybe this could be some kind of guide for them?--Matt Lewis (talk) 16:02, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Maybe a good test of the usefulness of the essay would be whether it helped to assign a nationality for Clive of India. Bluewave (talk) 18:13, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Helps you mean? As this is a page that exists (and not all do) - I'll give it a go. The essay says research - on the net and talk pages etc. He seems to be an Englishman who brought British rule to India (BBC - "Clive engineered British rule in India"). "British" might seem appropriate, but like the essay says - the Talk should be read.
Following the guidelines in the essay then, I added "a [[[British]] diplomat who" to the Clive of India introduction. Lets see if it sticks! --Matt Lewis (talk) 19:26, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Good plan! I'll watch Clive of India with interest! Bluewave (talk) 21:46, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Republic of Ireland

Why is there an edit war developing over how to present Republic of Ireland? The dispute? Republic of Ireland -VS- Ireland. -- GoodDay (talk) 16:43, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

"Subjects" of the crown as "nationality"?

This unreferenced line has been re-inserted:

British citizens are also subjects of the British Monarch and may be referred to as "subjects"; some do not prefer this faintly archaic usage — as above, it should be checked in each case.

It needs a reference found for it at very least ("See also" is the place) - but does it really relate to the "opening paragraph nationality"?

I've removed it again - it needs discussion. In an edit note, someone has questioned "even post-1982?" and the "fainlty archaic" qualifier suggests "checking" it in each case - but that suggests "subject" it is a suitable word for the "opeining paragraph nationailty"!! Surely it is not. --Matt Lewis (talk) 13:56, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

Changing an existing UK nationality

The subsection Do NOT enforce uniformity is wise as a policy. But it relies on evaluating the editor's intent:

Perhaps a recent Edit Summary reason I saw should be added before the last dash: "because it is more specific". But generally the problem is this section does not offer much guidance on the basis on content, and intent will often be obscure. In terms of content, it says to try to discern why, say, "British" was originally used when the biography was created. That is unrealistic.

Now an editor has tagged the word English in a lead with {{fact}}. So we would need a policy on references for nationality. This simple case was a small bio of a living person, an actor born in England. No reference is likely to be found. Even the actor's own statements would be chimerical at best. Heavily used tertiary sources like IMDB have their own policies are so are of no use. The previous use of "British" was changed to "English" by an editor without a widespread campaign, in just a few articles.

I'm looking for stronger direction than the proposed MOS article provides. The issue is difficult. I think we need to cut the knot and go with, by default, something, perhaps:

  • "(x) is an English (or British) actor"
  • "(y) is a Scottish actor"
  • "(w) is a Welsh actor"
  • "(z) is a Northern Irish British actor"

Without a default policy, to be used when no refs are available and a change is made, we will waste swales of time dealing with this on an ad-hoc basis with no actual guidance.

Also, the section Cannot decide? and its four points should be deleted. Fine in intent, it is unlikely to be of any use in an actual dispute. It should be replaced by a section simply advising Talk page discussion. Reading unrealistic advice just makes people irritable that they had to waste time reading it.

Thanks to all who are trying to solve this tough problem. -Colfer2 (talk) 15:04, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

I think it's a nice thought, but at present I think it will be difficult to achieve consensus on the issue. When this issue was last discussed, a few editors (myself included) felt that "British" should be used in default when there was no clear evidence whether a person was English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh. However, no consensus could be reached on the point as other editors felt that the matter should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Also, why exactly do you think the advice in "Wikipedia:Nationality of people from the United Kingdom#Cannot decide?" is unlikely to be of any use or unrealistic? — Cheers, JackLee talk 17:05, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, I might have been a little annoyed myself at having no answer in the case I described, where I am an uninvolved 3rd party. "British" and "English" are both OK by me, but I see no end to the edit switches with the proposed policy. Here is the section I said was unrealistic:
"1. Look at what others have done in comparable articles."
"2. Post a message asking for advice or assistance on the talk page, and/or on relevant WikiProjects and notice boards."
"3. Consider simply leaving the matter to someone who has a better feeling for it."
"4. When an idea of nationality exists, consider deferring to that view."
1. Punts to articles with the same problem. Any decision on them would be arbitrary under the current proposal, driven by the interests of the editors involved. In my opinion. I can't imagine simple case like the one I described having an instructive resolution to compare. Maybe I imagine too small. #1 would be good advice *if* there were a stronger advice on what the content should be.
2. Good advice.
3. No advice. This is the type of statement that will just annoy anyone interested in resolving a dispute. In my case two editors are having an edit war over adding {{fact}} to "English", a kind of fall-back argument after the switch from "British". And "feeling" is a bit of a weasel word for "understanding of the relevant policy", if there were one.
4. No advice. Also vague. If it refers to older states of the article, say so, but note that will not convince anyone who feels the article should be changed. And the proposed policy does not say to leave the article alone. If it refers to sources describing the subject, then it offers no advice on evaluating those sources. It is just too vague: "an idea of nationality" does not say whose idea.
Maybe it is worth trying again for consensus. The proposal will just result in a lot of reading and little resolution. -Colfer2 (talk) 17:59, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
I see. I agree that what was stated in the "Cannot decide?" section will not always be very helpful, but I think it was an attempt to provide some guidance, however slight, to editors encountering the issue. The main thing was to impress on editors that they should not just change all occurrences of "British" they find in articles to "Scottish", "Welsh", etc., or vice versa just because they like one description over the other.
Feel free to reinitiate the discussion if you want to, but I'd suggest you have a look at what was discussed above at "British, or English, Scottish, Welsh, (Northern) Irish?" first and try to summarize the main arguments made in previous debate when making suggestions on how we can move forward, otherwise people will just be rehashing what was said before. I don't think it will be easy to reach a resolution, as the upshot of the last debate was that consensus could not be reached on having a default nationality. The main purpose of the essay "Wikipedia:Nationality of people from the United Kingdom" was to record that lack of consensus. — Cheers, JackLee talk 19:20, 8 July 2008 (UTC)