What does, it mean to be English?
Being English used to be So easy. They were one of the most easily identified peoples on earth, recognized by their language, their manners, their clothes and the fact that they drank tea by the bucket-load. It is all so much more complicated now. When, occasionally, we come across someone whose stiff upper lip, sensible shoes or tweedy manner identifies them as English. By travelling into the past, we can discover the roots of the present anxiety of the English about themselves to the things that created that instantly recognizable ideal Englishman and Englishwoman who carried the flag across the world. Some, of these influences were relatively easy to spot. Obviously the fact that they were born on an island rather living on a continental land mass had had an effect. They came from a country where Protestant reformation had put the church firmly in its place. They had inherited a deep belief in individual liberty. Once upon a time the English knew who they were. They were polite, unexcitable, reserved, prone to melancholy and had hot-water bottles instead of a sex life: how they reproduced was one of the mysteries of the western world. They were class-bound, hidebound and incapable of expressing their emotions. They did their duty. Their most prized possession was a sense of honour. They were steadfast and trustworthy. The word of an English gentleman was as good as a bond sealed in blood. The most popular English films express the English people, in the immortal words, "we are not put on earth to enjoy ourselves", and the second thing, the importance of a sense of duty - of sacrificing pleasures for-a greater good. One could assume about these people that they were decent and as industrious as was necessary to meet comparatively modest ambitions. They had a deeply held sense of their own rights, yet would proudly say they were "not much bothered" about politics. But they were not in any meaningful sense religious, The...
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