What is England?


by SW VandeCarr
Tags: england
JaredJames
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#19
Sep17-10, 08:22 AM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
Wales is a country?
Yep, I live there. Although I have found in life that is a fact it's best not to divulge too quickly, although the accent gives you up instantly. Let me give you the basic contents of a conversation in England:

English Person: "Hello and where are you from?"
Me: "South Wales"
English Person: "Oh" [Slight pause, with look of 'oh he's as thick as a bulls kn*b']

English Person: [Insert random sheep molesting joke here]

A bit explicit, but that's the exact pattern every conversation I have with new people takes.

Gets a bit boring after a while. Although I do enjoy the look on their face when I get better results than them in the university exams and coursework!
epenguin
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#20
Sep17-10, 09:52 AM
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The transatlantic OP has blundered into a nest of more or less friendly hornets.

A lot to say - I won't now.

Even people not as far away as the OP, namely in Europe, are quite confused about it, and this goes for people who ought to know like press reporters.

But then many Europeans are quite confused about Canada. Like it's in America isn't it? - but hold on, there is something or other funny about it. But perhaps there is about Texas too.

Basically Continentals call the whole lot England, Angleterre, Inghilterra, Engeland, etc. It leads to descriptions which to the British sound distinctly odd, like the English Army, English Navy or English Parliament or Government - inexistent entities.

Then to complicate matters as well as the places already mentioned in the thread there are what are called 'Crown Dependencies' (the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) which are not part of the UK nor represented in Parliament, not colonies, self-governing yet not totally independent, recognise the Queen whose head is on their coinage and stamps.

What is really behind all the complication is that Great Britain has a continuity of history without the kind of breaks represented by the American or French Revolutions. Thus the formal feudal system and model of sovereignty was never totally torn up to start with some new founding document or Constitution like most Continental countries under the influence more or less of the French Revolution. In practice it adapts while respecting some archaic forms and, very broad-brushing, the country has little, indeed less than nothing, to envy others in terms of substantial modernity most, not all, of us have tended always to think.

The British Constitution only began not before the Blair governments, i,e, practically this century, to change from something that had hardly changed since 1911 and would have been quite recognisable and familiar to Victorians. Propelling changes were: nationalist or devolutionist forces and voices, interests, sentiments etc.; the desire of Blair and Blairites to look modern; the redimensioning of sovereignty and adaptations implied by membership of the European Union, which in particular works with a different system and concept of law than the English. Of course once you change one part you find you can't stop another, perhaps unforeseen, changing.

The US masses probably only got their first awareness of any of all this when people were surprised that on the Megrahi (Lockerbie, Libyan) scandal they found they were not dealing with the UK Government in London but with a (fruitcake of a) Scottish Justice Minister and 'Government'. Do not be deceived: firstly this had nothing to do with any of these changes, Scotland has always had a different Law and legal system (more influenced by Roman Law) than England; secondly if the UK government said it has no influence that is not because of the independent legal system but rather because different political parties (Labour and Scottish National Party) controlled the different parts and they hate and try to diddle each other.
alxm
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#21
Sep17-10, 10:32 AM
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Scotland, Wales, Ireland were basically nation-states that were conquered and/or subjugated by the English. Same as so many others by so many other nations. A difference here is that the English succeeded better than most at obliterating the native cultures/languages, to the extent that the vast majorities in these places now speak English.

By comparison, the Swedes ruled Finland for about as long and never came close to getting a majority speaking their language. Sweden didn't colonize Finland the way England colonized Ireland (in fact, they more often encouraged migration in the opposite direction). While Finland was always considered its own distinct entity, it was not a (recognized) kingdom prior to Swedish rule, hence it was an annexed and integral part of Sweden proper back then. It was a 'country', but not a state in any sense. The idea of Finnish independence did not come about until the 19th century; not always the case for other countries. E.g. Denmark-Norway had been recognized kingdoms and were technically a union, even though Norway was entirely ruled by Denmark.

But they were always 'countries' in the sense that they were always distinct peoples with their own ethnic identity, and own 'home region'. It wasn't really until the 19th century that nationalism lead people to reason that a single people should correspond to a single state. Before that, there was nothing unusual or odd about being ruled by people who spoke a different language than you. Most Europeans lived under such rulers most of the time.

Continuing the Scandinavian example, you can also see what happens when people get assimilated; they drop off the map. Today Sweden's a typical nation-state, the land of the Swedes. But circa 500 A.D., it consisted of the kingdoms of Swedes (Svear) and Geats (Götar). Somewhere between then and the Viking age, the former subjugated the latter, and they were both ruled by the king of the Svear. But the distinction was still in full force, and Scandinavians were generally divided into Swedes, Geats, Norwegians, Danes. (e.g. in Beowulf and the Sagas) The Geats were assimilated during the Middle Ages; they simply faded away into being "Swedes" (distinguished as Svenskar rather than Svear).
Rebound
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#22
Sep17-10, 11:08 AM
P: 47
The UK precisely fits the definition of a federation:

"A federation (Latin: foedus, foederis, 'covenant'), also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government."

For example,

"The form of government or constitutional structure found in a federation is known as federalism (see also federalism as a political philosophy). It can be considered the opposite of another system, the unitary state. The government of Germany with sixteen federated Länder is an example of a federation, whereas neighboring Austria and its Bundesländer was a unitary state with administrative divisions that became federated, and neighboring France by contrast has always been unitary."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federation
SW VandeCarr
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#23
Sep17-10, 11:30 AM
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Thanks all. I have been educated. Wales is a country. It has had a piece of land it can call its own since the Celts first set foot on the island. It has its own government of sorts. It has own prince; who happens to be English, but actually he comes from a German line. I know all about that fake "Windsor" name. But mostly it has its own language which (practically) no non Welsh person speaks (or would try to speak). England, alas, doesn't really have its own language anymore since far more non-English people speak it than English people, and they use it as if it were their own. Some of the best English literature of the last 100 years has been written by Irish people.

As for Scotland, yes Americans were confused about the Scottish judge and Scottish law. But not me. Scotland is a country too. Funny it would follow Roman Law though. It was never part of the SPQR. England however was, but apparently doesn't follow Roman Law.

Finally, I'm told by everyone that England is a country. But without a government, a set of laws, and a leader it can call its very own, I still have my doubts. It has taken all of these things including its own language, spread them all around and kept nothing for itself except its name...oh, and its flag. I love the English flag.
JaredJames
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#24
Sep17-10, 11:45 AM
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But mostly it has its own language which (practically) no non Welsh person speaks (or would try to speak)
I don't know many people who speak Welsh and I live there! The only reason I know basic phrases is because they force you to learn it in schools. To get true welsh speakers you need North or West Wales.

England, alas, doesn't really have its own language anymore since far more non-English people speak it than English people, and they use it as if it were their own.
The language people see as 'English' is what they speak in London (ish, it's mainly from films upi hear it so imagine some posh bad guy). Although it's basics prevail throughout the country, it is distinctly different in various parts. There are a lot of places which have their own phrases, sayings and words which you won't hear anywhere else (coming from the original languages they had in those parts), and as a newcomer to those areas it can be difficult to understand, especially with the variation in accents. Listen to people from Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Yorkshire, Birmingham and London one after another and you will see there is a massive difference between the language spoken and the accents.

Finally, I'm told by everyone that England is a country. But without a government, a set of laws, and a leader it can call its very own, I still have my doubts. It has taken all these things including its own language, spread them all around and kept nothing for itself except its name...oh, and its flag. I love the English flag.
Try not to think of it as England without it's own laws, government and leader. Think of it as Westminster being England's, and the other countries 'piggy-backing' it. (If that helps, I know it isn't strictly true, but if it helps you think about it, what the hell).
Rebound
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#25
Sep17-10, 11:55 AM
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With all due respect, I get the impression you didn't read my post. The UK is a federation and it's members are countries. "In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states (read countries) is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government."

[Edit] I felt I should clarify by pointing out that in this context, countries are component states but component states need not be countries. In the case of Canada, the provinces would need to secede from the federation to be considered countries, for example.
JaredJames
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#26
Sep17-10, 12:06 PM
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Are you responding to me?

If so, I didn't comment on anything in your post so I don't know what you are referring to in mine (if not, just ignore this).

Regardless, is the Federation status official (as in the view of the government of the UK and other countries) or is it just something you've assigned to it and the UK is actually classified as something else?
SW VandeCarr
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#27
Sep17-10, 12:17 PM
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Quote Quote by Rebound View Post
With all due respect, I get the impression you didn't read my post. The UK is a federation and it's members are countries. "In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states (read countries) is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government."

[Edit] I felt I should clarify by pointing out that in this context, countries are component states but component states need not be countries. In the case of Canada, the provinces would need to secede from the federation to be considered countries, for example.
Yes, I suppose the UK is a federation of sorts since devolution. However, the components of a federation have typical names such as "province". Moreover, they are usually equally constituted, all provinces having the same kinds of public responsibilities and government structure. England is not a province. I don't know what it is. They're calling it a country within a country here, but that is not legal term. And England is not the same as the other "countries" in the UK for all the reasons I've pointed out.
DaveC426913
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#28
Sep17-10, 12:27 PM
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Quote Quote by jarednjames View Post
Yep, I live there.
Oohhhh.. Well that explains a few things...

JaredJames
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#29
Sep17-10, 12:30 PM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
Oohhhh.. Well that explains a few things...



Yep says it all!!!
SW VandeCarr
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#30
Sep17-10, 12:31 PM
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Quote Quote by jarednjames View Post
The language people see as 'English' is what they speak in London
Really? What part of London?
Studiot
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#31
Sep17-10, 12:50 PM
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England has no parliamnent of its own?

Well I think the last invocation of the Witan was pre 1000 as I'm not sure Harold ever called one.
There is, theoretically, nothing to prevent a current monarch calling one though.

Then of course there is the Stannary and Stannary Court - no longer active in Devon but peculiar to Cornwall.

Then there is the Manx Parliament (already mentioned I think).

I can't agree with this view of history though

Scotland, Wales, Ireland were basically nation-states that were conquered and/or subjugated by the English. Same as so many others by so many other nations. A difference here is that the English succeeded better than most at obliterating the native cultures/languages, to the extent that the vast majorities in these places now speak English.
Scotland was not a nation state, it was part of the kingdom of Norway. A (small) part achieved independence from Norway and gained a 'King'. War between this part and England raged for several hundred years, but it was never 'subjugated'.

The end of that phase of Scotland's history came when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England.

Wales was never ever a nation state. Before the Roman occupation it was divided between tribes, as was the rest of Britain and Ireland. After the Romans left it reverted to tribal divisions again until it was finally annexed by the Normans.

My knowledge of Irish history is not so clear, but I think it to be similar to the Welsh, except that the annexation occurred later.
JaredJames
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#32
Sep17-10, 01:02 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post
Really? What part of London?
I was referring more to accents and style of speaking ('rather posh' as films depict it which is where most people get their idea of the British form of the Language from), although the words used can vary depending on common slang for that area, that style of the language exists mainly in the London area, extending out to Greater London.

Even London can be separated out, you get the 'posh' areas such as Kingston where I am resident in university where people are fairly well spoken and then you get other places such as the east end where cockney accents and dialect is heard.

I'm trying to think of a good example of the 'classic' English dialect people expect from England, but I'm sure you already know it. When you think 'English person' you don't immediately hear a Birmingham or Liverpudlian accent in your head.
alxm
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#33
Sep17-10, 07:53 PM
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Quote Quote by Studiot View Post
Scotland was not a nation state, it was part of the kingdom of Norway. A (small) part achieved independence from Norway and gained a 'King'. War between this part and England raged for several hundred years, but it was never 'subjugated'.
Well, I agree it wasn't a nation-state in the modern sense (which as I said, was a concept which mostly came into being in the 19th century). They weren't even states in the modern sense, yet. I was just making the point that it was a recognized cultural-geographic entity. It was ruled by Norway (and England by Denmark), but Scotland was still Scotland and not Norway, and the people were considered Scots, with the exception of the northenmost parts that had Norse-speakers.

'Subjugation' is perhaps too strong a word, but certainly Scotland was dominated by the English. Much as Norway was de facto ruled by Denmark for four centuries, even though they too were a union (on paper).
Wales was never ever a nation state. Before the Roman occupation it was divided between tribes, as was the rest of Britain and Ireland. After the Romans left it reverted to tribal divisions again until it was final annexed by the Normans. My knowledge of Irish history is not so clear, but I think it to be similar to the Welsh, except that the annexation occurred later.
Well, both these examples would seem to hinge more on what you would qualify as a 'kingdom'. From the medieval perspective, the distinction between a 'king' and a 'tribal warlord' tended to depend solely on whether or not they'd been baptized. The situation gets worse since the medieval chroniclers, in their zeal to embellish their own past, usually elevated what were probably more local rulers to 'national' ones. (a pattern that repeated itself across Europe) It's difficult to gauge the extent of 'national cohesion', but I think it's beyond doubt that Anglo-Saxons, the Welsh, the Irish, the Danes etc all had some concept of a common identity, even at that time.
Ken Natton
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#34
Sep20-10, 07:15 AM
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Err… strictly speaking, Wales is a principality, but this is just terminology and not really that important. There’s a brilliant clip of Feynman, available to watch on YouTube – I can probably find the reference if anyone is actually interested – talking about getting too wrapped up in the terminology when you actually understand nothing whatever about what you are making such an unnecessary fuss about.

Your attempts to disqualify England’s right to be regarded as a country, SW VandeCarr, based entirely on the active political structures, ignores the greatest part of why England exists at all. England, the British Isles, The United Kingdom et al have rather a long and complex history, mostly steeped in questions such as whether the ordinary citizen should defer to the King, to the Pope, or only direct to God. Much blood has been spilled in the settlement of these questions and that history still arouses great passions today. To the largest extent, it is that history that is responsible for the complex setup of our political institutions. I’m not sure where in the world you are, SW VandeCarr, or what opportunities you might have to gain access to it. But there was a fairly recent television series called A History of Britain made by a history professor who works at one of the American universities, I forget which one. His name is Simon Schama. It tells this story in a deeply compelling way and you might emerge from watching it with a stronger sense of exactly what England is.

In any case, whatever objections you may see fit to raise, it is abundantly clear:

England is a country.
Astronuc
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#35
Sep20-10, 10:19 AM
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Simon Schama is currently at Columbia University in NY. He taught history at Cambridge (Christ's College), (1966-76) Oxford (Brasenose College) (1976-1980) and art history and history at Harvard (1980-1993) before coming to Columbia.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/arthistor...ty/Schama.html

I caught parts of his program. I'll have to revisit it.
SW VandeCarr
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#36
Sep20-10, 11:59 AM
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Quote Quote by Ken Natton View Post
In any case, whatever objections you may see fit to raise, it is abundantly clear:

England is a country.
I said England was a country like Flanders or Castile are countries. Neither, afaik has political institutions which belong solely to them. They are parts of larger nation states. Castile, like England, was the historic center of political power in what became the Kingdom of Spain and which was, for a time, a great global power. The language of Castile, Castillano is the standard Spanish most people study in school just as the southern dialect of English is the standard English that is taught in schools around the world.

No one has identified a political institution which belongs solely to England. I never claimed one did not exist. I was asking, and so far, no one, including you, have given me an answer. The Westminster parliament and government, not to mention the Royal Family, belong to the United Kingdom. You may say that it is not necessary that England have political institutions of its own, but I think many English people might disagree. Perhaps, at least, legislation that applies only to England under devolution ought to be voted on only by English MPs.

BTW, I am well aware of England's long history. The institutions that once defined it have been spread beyond it to the extent that it has retained nothing for itself, or so it seems.


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