Britain’s first contacts with other nations, England’s identity crisis, rivalries and sense of separateness towards the world – an essay based on Paxman’s “The English – A Portrait of People” (1999)
Project Essay developed by: João Carlos Jesus – nr. 48080
Subject: English c1.1
Teacher: John Walker
Introduction……………... Page 3Essence of Foreign Visits... …… Page 4
The Preservation of English Symbols….. Page 5
The ‘Forever Young’ Rivalry with France... Page 6
The Elite Cultural Mindset of the English……... Page 7
The Foreign Perspective.... Page 8/9
Conclusion………………. Page 10
With this essay we will go back to the edification of Britain,to today’s cultural ideal of England. We will see what makes the English “different” from the people from other nations and what historically and geographically engaged them with such a unique cultural mindset.
Essence of foreign visits
Since the Beginning of Time, why did Britain receive so many foreigners?
Britain is an aggregate ofislands near Continental Europe; therefore as soon as Man started travelling through sea, the country began to be constantly visited by travelers from all around the world. Many of those travelers left several written documents that were important contributions to the process of defining a cultural identity and for the evolution of the country;
One of these travelers, Greek philosopher andscientist Pytheas, was a pioneer is describing Britain geographically and the people that inhabited it; according to documents by him written, the British had a “strong relationship with religion”, which could be proved by all the work they put on finding valuable resources and sculpting them in order to later on bury those sculptures as “an offering to the God they worshipped”. Pytheas recognized theBritish has a “people of simple manners”.
Throughout the centuries, those valuable resources such as gold, copper, silver, and they worked as a big spot of blood on the sea for many imperialistic “sharks”, like the Romans, the Scandinavians among others. Though invasions of Britain perpetuated by several countries brought a lot of good things with them, England, the country that was majorlyaffected by all of these invasions and conflicts, was failing to keep an identity unlike Scotland, Ireland and Wales. But that can´t solely be blamed on the invading countries that with no disregard shattered English culture; the English themselves are to blame, according to the view of Jeremy Paxman, author of the book “The English – A Portrait of People”.
The Preservationof English Symbols, “the job (that) never (needed to be) done”
Britain, more specifically England, survived all the “turmoil” caused by invasions and conflicts throughout the centuries, but what were the consequences of all that in today’s English culture? Have the English been able to keep their identity (almost) intact like the rest of the British countries?
The answer, according to JeremyPaxman*, is ‘not really’: “When an Irishman wears a bunch of shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day, the English look on with patronizing indulgence: scarcely anyone sports a rose on St. George’s Day. (…) [any] public display of national pride is not merely unsophisticated but somehow morally reprehensible” (Paxman, 1999; 12)
This matter can be explained through the most obvious of reasons;Geographically, Britain, being an aggregate of islands, made its people become “(…) profoundly independent and insular(…)”, less aware of other cultures, to the point that they seemed to be starting to see themselves as “the top nation of the world”. The fact that they didn’t even consider that that could change as global society evolved made the English stop thinking about “leaving their mark” in the world...