What Do We Mean By Britain?
• Britain is not England and England is not the
same as Britain - though the language is
• Generally understood that Britain is made up
of four separate nations - names?
• England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.
• However, there is another name for this group
• The United Kingdom - UK.
• Names - UK or GB, is there a difference?
What’s in a Name - UK or
• Great Britain - (geographic) mainland (or
main island), archipelago consisting of
England, Scotland and Wales
• British Isles - (geographic) GB plus all the
other islands including Ireland
• United Kingdom - (of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland) - (political )
• Britain often used as political term for the UK.
• British but not United Kingdomish!
• Britannia became the figure of
national personification of the United Kingdom during
the 18th century
Common misconceptions and
sources of confusion
• Some people think the other countries are the
same as England - very upsetting to the other
nationalities. Try asking a Scotsman if he’s
• N Ireland is part of the UK but the Republic of
Ireland is not - separate nation since 1921.
• British Parliament in London. Scotland, Wales
and NI all have their own parliaments
(assemblies), but England does not.
About Britain - the Geography:
Not a Land of Extremes!
• Satellite Image of the
• Anything surprising
about this image?
Climate and Weather
• Lack of cloud! UK has a reputation for poor weather, cool
• Temperate climate - subject to seasonal change
• 4 seasons, though sometimes it feels as if 1 is missed out!?
• Generally moderate
• In the path of the Gulf Stream, bringing mild, often damp
weather from the SW across the Atlantic.
• Recent instances of more extreme weather - global
warming or natural cycle?
• Often very changeable and unpredictable - favourite
• ‘If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 10 minutes!’
Topography and Landscape
• Again, no extremes, but
• A lot of coastline - BBC
• Lower land to the south
• Higher ground to the
north and west
• Several national parks
• What does this map tell
you about probable
• Last census 2001 - nearly 59m.
• 85% white British
• 15% other races and ethnicities
• Mostly urban - About 75% living in
towns and cities
• Current issues - declining birth rate and
life expectancy increasing > fewer
young people and more older.
What do we mean by British?
• We will return to this question later, but you
can be thinking about it.
Complexity of being British
• Sport is a good model to demonstrate.
• England, Scotland, Wales and NI have own
teams for football and most other sports.
• But in the Olympics, which includes almost
all sports, it’s GB. ( but in a similar
competition, the Commonwealth games, it’s
Eng, Scot, Wales and NI)
• Cricket - England represents the UK!
• So sometimes people support Britain, at other
times they are English/Welsh/Scottish/N Irish!
• So diverse and multiple feelings of identity
and also fierce national rivalries- England v
Scotland football matches!
• England is often seen as the ‘enemy’, the
team it’s most important to beat.
• Historically, it was England (under Norman
rule), which invaded and oppressed the other
• For some this goes beyond sport and is
critical to their whole identity.
• Post WW2 (1945) arrival of Commonwealth
communities in UK - Norman Tebbit’s ‘cricket
• 2010 - communities in London supporting
every team in the World Cup.
The Home Nations - Scotland
• From ‘Scoti’ - Latin for the land of the Gaels,
relatives of the Celts who had settled in
Scotland and Ireland - the Gaelic language.
• Independent kingdom until the Act of Union
(with England) in 1707 - there had been the
same monarch since James in 1603.
• Still today has its own Parliament, legal
system - economy- North Sea oil
• Many Scots have achieved great success in
UK terms - Gordon Brown, Sir Alex Ferguson,
• However, many Scots feel Scottish rather
than British and want political independence -
success of SNP.
• Ben Nevis - highest mountain in Britain.
Scotland has some of the best scenery in
Britain, even the world (when you can see it).
• Scots guard in full traditional costume, kilt,
bagpipes and sporran .
• Most famous Scotsman?
• ‘Rabbie Burns’ – Burns Night – piping in the
• Scottish dancing – ‘cayleigh’
• People are Scottish, not Scotch!
• Which is the term for whisky.
• Saint Andrew - Patron Saint of Scotland
• Scottish flag, St Andrew cross
• Famous Scots in history – Mary Queen
of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie
• Capital Edinburgh (not Glasgow), home
of famous festival (Athens of the north)
Wales - Cymru
• The name from Germanic ‘Walha’ - foreigner,
stranger, or maybe ‘wealas’ - slave.
• In Welsh Cymru - cymry - compatriots in old
• Never been a nation state but a kingdom until
1536 when finally came under English law -
after 1000 years of wars and skirmishes
against the ‘English’.
• But strong cultural tradition built around the
language - recent revival, dual language
• Learning Welsh now compulsory in primary
• Mount Snowdon - apart from the SE of
Wales, most of the country very rural, and
in the north mountainous.
• Strong musical/choral tradition
• Until late 20th C, coal mining was main
• Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (Welsh
capital), symbolic of recent regeneration
Ireland and Northern Ireland
• One island but 2 separate states - Eire and NI
• From 1970 until recently a very troubled area - ‘the
troubles’ - what about?
• Settled by the Gaels and later Vikings - early Middle
Ages, 12th C, the English arrived and soon Ireland
became virtually a colony under English control.
• Following Reformation, religious dimension -
England Protestant, Ireland Catholic
• Irish peasants treated very badly - Great Famine of
the 1840s - independence movement, Sinn Fein -
• 19th C - Irish problem big issue in British politics
• Finally- 1920 Govt of Ireland Act - created split
nation – eventually leaving the ‘6 counties’ in the NE
as part of the UK, Northern Ireland/Ulster, but with a
Recent History – ‘The Troubles’
• Late 60s – eruption of violence between
Catholics and Protestants
• The Catholics protesting about discrimination
• Involvement of paramilitary groups
• The Irish Republican Army (IRA) – Catholic
nationalist – united Ireland
• Ulster Defence Association (UDA) –
Protestant, Loyalist – wanting to remain part
of the UK
• British army brought in to ‘keep the peace’
• Biggest in size and population.
• One country, but many regions and big cities
• North-South divide - stereotypes of typical
northerners and southerners.
• London still a magnet, but also resented for
its wealth and domination of the news/media
• 6 main regions
• London and SE, South West, East Anglia,
Midlands, North West, North East
• However, many base identity on their city -
Scousers, Mancies, Brummies, Geordies
• In Britain, but especially England, class is still
a very important factor in people’s identity.
• In part a legacy of the Norman feudal system
(aristocracy and peasants), but more recently
the Industrial Revolution (middle and working
• Today, less obvious and more flexible, but
still very important
Nationality & Identity
• Like many countries, nationality & identity are
• By Britishness do we really mean
• Scots, Welsh, N. Irish, Manx & mixed race
inhabitants do not call themselves British.
• Great Britain used since 1603 when James VI
of Scotland became James I of England.
• United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, Act
of Union (Eng., Scot. Wales).
• United Kingdom of Great Britain and N.I. In
1921, after Irish independence.
What do we mean by British?
• Living in Britain
• Holding a British passport
• Born in Britain
• Family in Britain for 2 or more generations
• Vote in British elections
• Obey (mostly) British laws
• Share (mostly) majority values and attitudes
• Support British sports teams
What are some of these key British values and attitudes?
Is there a typical British person?
Key elements of Britishness
• Democracy - Parliamentary tradition
• Moderation, reformist, non-revolutionary
• Freedom - Justice
• Pragmatism and practicality over
• Entrepeneurialism – imperialism
• Individualism, privacy – ‘an Englishman’s
• Scepticism - anti-authoritarian
• Today very multicultural with many
• But diversity amongst the British
• Britain and Britishness - very complex