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Englishness

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 20 April 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the characteristics of the English identity. “An Englishman’s word is his bond”, “An Englishman’s home is his castle”. “England is a nation of shopkeepers”, but also “the most exclusive club there is”.

To Cecil Rhodes to be an Englishman was to have “won first prize in the lottery of life” but to Jonathan Swift the English were “the most pernicious race of odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”.

Organised, effete, cruel, brave, inventive, determined …Who are the English? And when, how and in what heat was their English identity forged? Britain has now the highest percentage of inter-racial marriages in the world. Does that say as much about the English as their previously branded characteristics of gravity, sense of order, domesticity and propriety? What was Englishness and is it possible now to define it in anything more than the loosest and baggiest terms?

With Paul Langford, Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford; Peter Mandler, Professor of Modern History at London Guildhall University; Professor Lola Young Director of the National Museum and Archives of Black History and Culture.

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