Decline in Britishness

Topics: United Kingdom, Ethnic group, British Empire Pages: 4 (1292 words) Published: May 4, 2008
The national identity of British citizens has evolved drastically over time. There is an intense desire among Britons to develop or define what it is to be British, made difficult today as a result of the many layers of British identity. Unlike most nations, which have distinct traditions, religious convictions, and even dialect, The United Kingdom is made up of separate nation-states with their own deeply ingrained cultures. Further complicating the matter is the rise of multiculturalism, which has hindered efforts to build an inclusive British identity based on commonalities among citizens. Multiculturalism is a result of the proliferation of immigrants from the Commonwealth into British society, and is becoming a major threat to the traditional concept of Britishness. Britons have lost their identity by refusing to recognize their shared values and instead highlighting their cultural differences.

Up until the mid-twentieth century, British identity was defined in terms of English ethnicity. This generated a vision of the United Kingdom as an essentially English nation-state in which the ethnic distinctions of the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish were likely to completely disappear over time. However, the need for a broader, more inclusive definition of ethnicity was emphasized after the First World War, as a way to unite rather than divide the ethnically diverse citizens of the United Kingdom (Ellis, 1997). “With the end of its Empire, the English [were] being forced to rediscover themselves and define themselves afresh in relation to Britain and the other nations of Britain. Britain [was] no longer simply England, even for the English” (Gamble, 9). This led to a reconstruction of national identity in an attempt to accommodate the ethnic diversity of the UK while promoting a shared sense of Britishness. Yet opposing groups, such as Irish republicans and unionists, Welsh socialists, and British conservatives, challenged this ideology, leading to the collapse of...
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