1. People who identify of full or partial British ancestry born into that country.
2. British-born people who identify of British ancestry only. 3. British citizens by way of residency in the British overseas territories; however, not all have ancestry from the United Kingdom. 4. British citizens or nationals.
British people are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled in Great Britain before the eleventh century. Prehistoric, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended in Britain under the Normans, descended from Scandinavian settlers in northern France. Conquest and union facilitated migration, cultural and linguistic exchange, and intermarriage between the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales during the Middle Ages, Early Modern period and beyond. Since 1922, there has been immigration to the United Kingdom by people from what is now the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth, mainland Europe and elsewhere; they and their descendants are mostly British citizens with some assuming a British, dual or hyphenated identity.
Greek and Roman writers, between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, name the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland as the Priteni, the origin of the Latin word Britannic. Parthenius, a 1st-century Ancient Greek grammarian, and the Etymologicum Genuinum, a 9th-century lexical encyclopaedia, describe Bretannus (the Latinised form of the Ancient GreekΒρεττανός) as the Celtic national forefather of the Britons. It has been suggested that this name derives from a Gaullish description translated as "people of the forms", referring to the custom of tattooing or painting their bodies with blue woad.
The indigenous people of the British isles are made up of a combination of Celtic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Norman ancestry. Modern studies using DNA analysis, popularized by the geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer and others, increasingly suggest that three quarters of Britons share a common ancestry with the hunter-gatherers who settled in Atlantic Europe during the Paleolithic era, "after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands".
Oppenheimer's opinion is that "..by far the majority of male gene types in the British Isles derive from Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal), ranging from a low of 59% in Fakenham, Norfolk to highs of 96% in Llangefni, north Wales". The National Museum Wales state that "it is possible that future genetic studies of ancient and modern human DNA may help to inform our understanding of the subject" but "early studies have, so far, tended to produce implausible conclusions from very small numbers of people and using outdated assumptions about linguistics and archaeology."
Between the 8th and 11th centuries, "three major cultural divisions" had emerged in Britain; the English, Scottish and Welsh. The English had unified under a single nation state in 937 by King Athelstan of Wessex after the Battle of Brunanburh. Before then, the English (known then in Old English as the Anglecynn) were under the governance of independent Anglo-Saxon petty kingdoms which gradually coalesced into a Heptarchy of seven powerful states, the most powerful of which were Mercia and Wessex. Scottish historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver said that the Battle of Brunanburh would "define the shape of Britain into the modern era", it was a "showdown for two very different ethnic identities – a Norse Celtic alliance versus Anglo Saxon. It aimed to settle once and for all whether Britain would be controlled by a single imperial power or remain several separate independent kingdoms, a split in perceptions which is still very much with us today". However, historian Simon Schama suggested that it was Edward I of England who was solely "responsible for provoking the peoples of Britain into an awareness of their nationhood" in the 13th century.Scottish national identity, "a complex amalgam" of Gael, Pict, Norsemen and Anglo-Norman, was not finally forged until the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
Despite centuries of military and religious conflict, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been "drawing increasingly together" since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Union of the Crowns in 1603. A broadly shared language, island, monarch, religion and Bible (the Authorized King James Version) further contributed to a growing cultural alliance between the two sovereign realms and their peoples. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 resulted in a pair of Acts of Parliament by the English and Scottish legislatures—the Bill of Rights 1689 and Claim of Right Act 1689 respectively—which ensured that the shared constitutional monarchy of England and Scotland was held only by Protestants. Despite this, although popular with the monarchy and much of the aristocracy, attempts to unite the two states by Acts of Parliament, in 1606, 1667, and 1689 were unsuccessful; increased political management of Scottish affairs from England had led to "criticism", and strained Anglo-Scottish relations.
While English maritime explorations during the Age of Discovery provided new found imperial power and wealth for the English and Welsh at the end of the 17th century, Scotland suffered from a long-standing weak economy. In response, the Scottish kingdom, in opposition to William II of Scotland (III of England), commenced the Darien Scheme, an attempt to establish a Scottish imperial outlet—the colony of New Caledonia—on the isthmus of Panama. However, through a combination of Scottish mismanagement and English sabotage, this imperial venture ended in "catastrophic failure" with an estimated "25% of Scotland's total liquid capital" lost.
The events of the Darien Scheme coupled with the English Parliament passing the Act of Settlement 1701 asserting the right to choose the order of succession for English, Scottish and Irish thrones escalated political hostilities between England and Scotland, and neutralised calls for a united British people. The Parliament of Scotland responded by passing the Act of Security 1704, allowing it to appoint a different monarch to succeed to the Scottish crown from that of England, if it so wished. The English political perspective was that the appointment of a Jacobite monarchy in Scotland opened up the possibility of a Franco-Scottish military conquest of England during the Second Hundred Years' War and War of the Spanish Succession. The Alien Act 1705 was passed by the Parliament of England which provided that Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as aliens and estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property, whilst also restricting the import of Scottish products into England and its colonies (about half of Scotland's trade). However, the act contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Parliament of Scotland entered into negotiations regarding the creation of a unified Parliament of Great Britain, which in turn would refund Scottish financial losses on the Darien Scheme.
Despite opposition from much of the Scottish, and English populations, a Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706 that was then ratified by each parliament passing Acts of Union 1707. With effect from 1 May 1707, this created a new sovereign state called Great Britain. This kingdom "began as a hostile merger", but led to a "full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world"; historian Simon Schama stated "it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history."
After 1707, a British national identity began to develop though initially resisted—particularly by the English—the peoples of Great Britain had by the 1750s begun to assume a "layered identity", to think of themselves as simultaneously British and also Scottish, English, or Welsh.
The terms North Briton and South Briton were devised for the Scottish and English, with the former gaining some preference in Scotland, particularly by the economists and philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment. Indeed, it was the "Scots [who] played key roles in shaping the contours of British identity"; "their scepticism about the Union allowed the Scots the space and time in which to dominate the construction of Britishness in its early crucial years", drawing upon the notion of a shared "spirit of liberty common to both Saxon and Celt ... against the usurpation of the Church of Rome".James Thomson was a poet and playwright born to a Church of Scotland minister in the Scottish Lowlands in 1700 who was interested in forging a common British culture and national identity in this way. In collaboration with Thomas Arne, they wrote Alfred, an opera about Alfred the Great's victory against the Vikings performed to Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1740 to commemorate the accession of George I and the birthday of Princess Augusta. "Rule, Britannia!" was the climatic piece of the opera and quickly became a "jingoistic" British patriotic song celebrating "Britain's supremacy offshore". An island country with a series of victories for the Royal Navy associated empire and naval warfare "inextricably with ideals of Britishness and Britain's place in the world".
Britannia, the new national personification of Great Britain, was established in the 1750s as a representation of "nation and empire rather than any single national hero". On Britannia and British identity, historian Peter Borsay wrote:
Up until 1797 Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear, but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the Royal Navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular victories, the spear was replaced by a trident... The navy had come to be seen...as the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of what it was to be British.
From the Union of 1707 through to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Great Britain was "involved in successive, very dangerous wars with Catholic France", but which "all brought enough military and naval victories ... to flatter British pride". As the Napoleonic Wars with the First French Empire advanced, "the English and Scottish learned to define themselves as similar primarily by virtue of not being French or Catholic". In combination with sea power and empire, the notion of Britishness became more "closely bound up with Protestantism", a cultural commonality through which the English, Scots and Welsh became "fused together, and remain[ed] so, despite their many cultural divergences".
The proliferation of neo-classical monuments at the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th, such as The Kymin at Monmouth, were attempts to meld the concepts of Britishness with the Greco-Roman empires of classical antiquity. The new and expanding British Empire provided "unprecedented opportunities for upward mobility and the accumulations of wealth", and so the "Scottish, Welsh and Irish populations were prepared to suppress nationalist issues on pragmatic grounds". The British Empire was "crucial to the idea of a British identity and to the self-image of Britishness". Indeed, the Scottish welcomed Britishness during the 19th century "for it offered a context within which they could hold on to their own identity whilst participating in, and benefiting from, the expansion of the [British] Empire". Similarly, the "new emphasis of Britishness was broadly welcomed by the Welsh who considered themselves to be the lineal descendants of the ancient Britons – a word that was still used to refer exclusively to the Welsh". For the English however, by the Victorian era their enthusiastic adoption of Britishness meant that for them it "meant the same as 'Englishness'", so much so that "Englishness and Britishness" and "'England' and 'Britain' were used interchangeably in a variety of contexts". Britishness came to borrow heavily upon English political history because England had "always been the dominant component of the British Isles in terms of size, population and power"; Magna Carta, common law and hostility to continental Europe were English factors that influenced British sensibilities.
The political union of the predominantly Catholic Kingdom of Ireland with Great Britain in 1800 coupled with outbreak of peace with France in the early 19th century, challenged the previous century's concept of militant Protestant Britishness. The new, expanded United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland meant that the state had to re-evaulate its position on the civil rights of Catholics, and extend its definition of Britishness to the Irish people. Like terms that had been invented around the of the Acts of Union 1707, West Briton was introduced for the Irish after 1800. In 1832 Daniel O'Connell, an Irish politician who campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, stated in Britain's House of Commons:
The people of Ireland are ready to become a portion of the British Empire, provided they be made so in reality and not in name alone; they are ready to become a kind of West Briton if made so in benefits and justice; but if not, we are Irishmen again.
Ireland, from 1801 to 1923, was marked by a succession of economic and political mismanagement and neglect, which marginalised the Irish, and advanced Irish nationalism. In the forty years that followed the union, successive British governments grappled with the problems of governing a country which had, as Benjamin Disraeli put it in 1844, "a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world". Although the vast majority of Unionists in Ireland proclaimed themselves "simultaneously Irish and British", even for them there was a strain upon the adoption of Britishness after the Great Famine.
War continued to be a unifying factor for the people of Great Britain; British jingoism re-emerged during the Boer Wars in southern Africa. The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility for Britishness. In 1887, Frederic Harrison wrote:
Morally, we Britons plant the British flag on every peak and pass; and wherever the Union Jack floats there we place the cardinal British institutions—tea, tubs, sanitary appliances, lawn tennis, and churches.
The Catholic Relief Act 1829 reflected a "marked change in attitudes" in Great Britain towards Catholics and Catholicism. A "significant" example of this was the collaboration between Augustus Welby Pugin, an "ardent Roman Catholic" and son of a Frenchman, and Sir Charles Barry, "a confirmed Protestant", in redesigning the Palace of Westminster—"the building that most enshrines ... Britain's national and imperial pre-tensions". Protestantism gave way to imperialism as the leading element of British national identity during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and as such, a series of Royal, imperial and national celebrations were introduced to the British people to assert imperial British culture and give themselves a sense of uniqueness, superiority and national consciousness.Empire Day and jubilees of Queen Victoria were introduced to the British middle class, but quickly "merged into a national 'tradition'".
A World War I recruitment poster. British identity had been inclusive of colonial settlers in North America and Australasia until the rise of independence movements and the decolonisation of the British Empire in the mid-20th century.
The First World War "reinforced the sense of Britishness" and patriotism in the early 20th century. Through war service (including conscription in Great Britain), "the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish fought as British". The aftermath of the war institutionalised British national commemoration through Remembrance Sunday and the Poppy Appeal. The Second World War had a similar unifying effect upon the British people, however, its outcome was to recondition Britishness on a basis of democratic values and its marked contrast to Europeanism. Notions that the British "constituted an Island race, and that it stood for democracy were reinforced during the war and they were circulated in the country through Winston Churchill's speeches, history books and newspapers".
At its international zenith, "Britishness joined peoples around the world in shared traditions and common loyalities that were strenuously maintained". But following the two world wars, the British Empire experienced rapid decolonisation. The secession of the Irish Free State from the United Kingdom meant that Britishness had lost "its Irish dimension" in 1922, and the shrinking empire supplanted by independence movements dwindled the appeal of British identity in the Commonwealth of Nations during the mid-20th century.
The late-20th century saw major changes to the politics of the United Kingdom with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales following pre-legislative referendums. Calls for greater autonomy for the four countries of the United Kingdom had existed since their original union with each other, but gathered pace in the 1960s and 1970s. Devolution has led to "increasingly assertive Scottish, Welsh and Irish national identities", resulting in more diverse cultural expressions of Britishness, or else its outright rejection; Gwynfor Evans, a Welsh nationalist politician active in the late-20th century, rebuffed Britishness as "a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish".
Britishness, to me, is an overarching political and legal concept: it signifies allegiance to the laws, government and broad moral and political concepts—like tolerance and freedom of expression—that hold the United Kingdom together.
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, initiated a debate on British identity in 2006. Brown's speech to the Fabian Society's Britishness Conference proposed that British values demand a new constitutional settlement and symbols to represent a modern patriotism, including a new youth community service scheme and a British Day to celebrate. One of the central issues identified at the Fabian Society conference was how the English identity fits within the framework of a devolved United Kingdom. An expression of Her Majesty's Government's initiative to promote Britishness was the inaugural Veterans' Day which was first held on 27 June 2006. As well as celebrating the achievements of armed forces veterans, Brown's speech at the first event for the celebration said:
Scots and people from the rest of the UK share the purpose—that Britain has something to say to the rest of the world about the values of freedom, democracy and the dignity of the people that you stand up for. So at a time when people can talk about football and devolution and money, it is important that we also remember the values that we share in common.
A world map showing the distribution and concentration of Britons by country. Legend:
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British people - people with British citizenship or of British descent - have a significant presence in a number of countries other than the United Kingdom, and in particular in those with historic connections to the British Empire. After the Age of Discovery the British were one of the earliest and largest communities to emigrate out of Europe, and the British Empire's expansion during the first half of the 19th century triggered an "extraordinary dispersion of the British people", resulting in particular concentrations "in Australasia and North America".
The British Empire was "built on waves of migration overseas by British people", who left the United Kingdom and "reached across the globe and permanently affected population structures in three continents". As a result of the British colonisation of the Americas, what became the United States was "easily the greatest single destination of emigrant British", but in Australia the British experienced a birth rate higher than "anything seen before" resulting in the displacement of indigenous Australians.
In colonies such as Southern Rhodesia, British East Africa and Cape Colony, permanently resident British communities were established and whilst never more than a numerical minority these Britons "exercised a dominant influence" upon the culture and politics of those lands. In Australia, Canada and New Zealand "people of British origin came to constitute the majority of the population" contributing to these states becoming integral to the Anglosphere.
The United Kingdom Census 1861 estimated the size of the overseas British to be around 2.5 million, but concluded that most of these were "not conventional settlers" but rather "travellers, merchants, professionals, and military personnel". By 1890, there were over 1.5 million further British-born people living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. A 2006 publication from the Institute for Public Policy Research estimated 5.6 million Britons lived outside of the United Kingdom.
From the beginning of Australia's colonial period until after the Second World War, people from the United Kingdom made up a large majority of people coming to Australia, meaning that many Australian-born people can trace their origins to Britain. The colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788, was part of the eastern half of Australia claimed by the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1770, and initially settled by Britons through penal transportation. Together with another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies, the federation of Australia was achieved on 1 January 1901.
Its history of British dominance meant that Australia was "grounded in British culture and political traditions that had been transported to the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century and become part of colonial culture and politics". Australia maintains the Westminster system of Parliamentary Government and Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia. Until 1987, the national status of Australian citizens was formally described as "British Subject: Citizen of Australia". Britons continue to make up a substantial proportion of immigrants.
British cultural, economic, social, political and educational values create a unique British-like, Falkland Islands. Yet Islanders feel distinctly different from their fellow citizens who reside in the United Kingdom. This might have something to do with geographical isolation or with living on a smaller island—perhaps akin to those British people not feeling European.
It was not until 1977 that the phrase "A Canadian citizen is a British subject" ceased to be used in Canadian passports.politics of Canada are strongly influenced by British political culture. Although significant modifications have been made, Canada is governed by a democratic parliamentary framework comparable to the Westminster system, and retains Elizabeth II as The Queen of Canada and Head of State. English is an official language used in Canada.
British and Chilean flags in a monument in Antofagasta city
Chile, facing the Pacific Ocean, has a large British presence. Over 50,000 British immigrants settled in Chile from 1840 to 1914. A significant number of them settled in Magallanes in Province, especially the city of Punta Arenas when it flourished as a major global seaport for ships crossing the Strait of Magellan from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. Around 32,000 English settled in Valparaíso, influencing the port city to the extent of making it virtually a British colony during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. However, the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War drove many of them away from the city or back to Europe.
In Valparaíso they created their largest and most important colony, bringing with them neighbourhoods of British character, schools, social clubs, sports clubs, business organizations and periodicals. Even today their influence is apparent in specific areas, such as the banks and the navy, as well as in certain social activities, such as football (soccer), horse racing, and the custom of drinking tea.
British investment helped Chile become prosperous and British seamen helped the Chilean navy become a strong force in the South Pacific. Chile won two wars, the first against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation and the second, the War of the Pacific, in 1878–79, against an alliance between Peru and Bolivia. The liberal-socialist "Revolution of 1891" introduced political reforms modeled on British parliamentary practice and lawmaking.
British immigrants were also important in the northern zone of the country during the saltpetre boom, in the ports of Iquique and Pisagua. The King of Saltpetre, John Thomas North, was the principal tycoons of nitrate mining. The British legacy is reflected in the streets of the historic district of the city of Iquique, with the foundation of various institutions, such as the Club Hípico (Racing Club). Nevertheless, the British active presence came to an end with the saltpetre crisis during the 1930s.
Some Scots settled in the country's more temperate regions, where the climate and the forested landscape with glaciers and islands may have reminded them of their homeland (the Highlands and Northern Scotland), while English and Welsh made up the rest. The Irish immigrants, who were frequently confused with the British, arrived as merchants, tradesmen and sailors, settling along with the British in the main trading cities and ports.
An important contingent of British (principally Welsh) immigrants arrived between 1914 and 1950, settling in the present-day region of Magallanes. British families were established in other areas of the country, such as Santiago, Coquimbo, the Araucanía, and Chiloé.
The cultural legacy of the British in Chile is notable and has spread beyond the British Chilean community onto society at large. One custom taken from the British is afternoon tea — called onces by Chileans, soccer, rugby union and horse racing. Another interesting, although peculiar, legacy is the sheer amount of use of British first surname by Chileans.
Chile currently has the largest population descendants of British in Latin America. Over 700,000 Chileans may have British (English, Scottish and Welsh) origin, amounting to 4.5% of Chile's population.
A long-term result of James Cook's voyage of 1768–71, a significant number of New Zealanders are of British descent, whom a sense of Britishness has contributed to their identity. As late as the 1950s, it was common for British New Zealanders to refer to themselves as British, such as when Prime Minister Keith Holyoake described Sir Edmund Hillary's successful ascent of Mount Everest as putting "the British race and New Zealand on top of the world".New Zealand passports described nationals as "British Subject: Citizen of New Zealand" until 1974, when this was changed to "New Zealand citizen".
British immigrants fit in here very well. My own ancestry is all British. New Zealand values are British values, derived from centuries of struggle since Magna Carta. Those things make New Zealand the society it is.
British nationality law as it pertains to Hong Kong has been unusual ever since Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842. From its beginning as a sparsely populated trading port to today's cosmopolitan international financial centre of over seven million people, the territory has attracted refugees, immigrants and expatriates alike searching for a new life. Citizenship matters were complicated by the fact that British nationality law treated those born in Hong Kong as British subjects (although they did not enjoy full rights and citizenship), while the People's Republic of China (PRC) did not recognise Hong Kong Chinese as British. The main reason being that recognising these people as British would be seen as tacit acceptance of a series of treaties which the PRC labels as "unequal" – including the ones which ceded Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later Hong Kong's New Territories to the UK. However the British government has under the special circumstance of Hong Kong's political reality, granted 3.4 million Hong Kong people a new creation of nationality known as British National (Overseas), which is established in accordance to the Hong Kong Act 1985. Amid those 3.4 million Hong Kong British people, there is also a significant amount of British Nationals (Overseas) who are eligible for full British citizenship. Both British National (Overseas) and British citizen are British national and Commonwealth citizen according to the British Nationality Law, which enables them to various rights in the United Kingdom and further extended to the European Union.
The British arrived in the area which would become the modern-day South Africa during the early 18th century, yet substantial settlement only started end of the 18th century, in the Cape of Good Hope; the British first explored the area for conquests for or related to the Slave Trade. In the late 19th century, the discovery of gold and diamonds further encouraged colonisation of South Africa by the British, and the population of the British-South Africans rose substantially, although there was fierce rivalry between the British and Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch colonists) in the period known as the Boer Wars. When apartheid first started most British-South Africans were mostly keen on keeping and even strengthening its ties with the United Kingdom. The latest census in South Africa showed that there are almost 2 million British-South Africans; they make up about 40% of the total White South African demographic, and currently the greatest white British ancestry populations in South Africa are in the KwaZulu-Natal province and in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Plantations of Ireland introduced large numbers of English, Scottish and Welsh people to Ireland throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period. The resulting Protestant Ascendancy, the aristocratic class of the Lordship of Ireland, broadly identified themselves as Anglo-Irish. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Protestant British settlers subjugated Catholic, Gaelic inhabitants in the north of Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster and the Williamite War in Ireland; it was "an explicit attempt to control Ireland strategically by introducing ethnic and religious elements loyal to the British interest in Ireland".
The Ulster Scots people are an ethnic group of British origin in Ireland, broadly descended from Lowland Scots who settled in large numbers in the Province of Ulster during the planned process of colonisations of Ireland which took place in the reign of James VI of Scotland and I of England. Together with English and Welsh settlers, these Scots introduced Protestantism (particularly the Presbyterianism of the Church of Scotland) and the Ulster Scots and English languages to, mainly, northeastern Ireland. With the partition of Ireland and independence for what is now the Republic of Ireland some of these people found themselves no longer living within the United Kingdom.
Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns, and constitutionally, the people of Northern Ireland have been recognised as "all persons born in Northern Ireland and having, at the time of their birth, at least one parent who is a British citizen, an Irish citizen or is otherwise entitled to reside in Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residence". The Good Friday Agreement guarantees the "recognition of the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose". Nevertheless, community divisions are still strong, and the unique situation of Britons in Northern Ireland has produced a strong and distinctive British identity which at the extreme is linked with Ulster loyalism and the Orange Institution, but more commonly is "civic in nature", tied with the Protestant work ethic of an "industrious, assertive, self-reliant" people.
An English presence in North America began with the Roanoke Colony and Colony of Virginia in the late-16th century, but the first successful English settlement was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. By the 1610s an estimated 1,300 English people had travelled to North America, the "first of many millions from the British Isles". In 1620 the Pilgrims established the English imperial venture of Plymouth Colony, beginning "a remarkable acceleration of permanent emigration from England" with over 60% of trans-Atlantic English migrants settling in the New England Colonies. During the 17th century an estimated 350,000 English and Welsh migrants arrived in North America, which in the century after the Acts of Union 1707 was surpassed in rate and number by Scottish and Irish migrants.
Nevertheless, longstanding cultural and historical ties have, in more modern times, resulted in the Special Relationship, the historically close political, diplomatic, and military co-operation between the United Kingdom and United States.Linda Colley, a professor of history at Princeton University and specialist in Britishness, suggested that because of their colonial influence on the United States, the British find Americans a "mysterious and paradoxical people, physically distant but culturally close, engagingly similar yet irritatingly different".
Historically, British cuisine has meant "unfussy dishes made with quality local ingredients, matched with simple sauces to accentuate flavour, rather than disguise it". It has been "vilified as unimaginative and heavy", and traditionally been limited in its international recognition to the full breakfast and the Christmas dinner. This is despite British cuisine having absorbed the culinary influences of those who have settled in Britain, resulting in hybrid dishes such as the British AsianChicken tikka masala, hailed by some as "Britain's true national dish".
Celtic agriculture and animal breeding produced a wide variety of foodstuffs for Celts and Britons. The Anglo-Saxons developed meat and savoury herb stewing techniques before the practice became common in Europe. The Norman conquest of England introduced exotic spices into Britain in the Middle Ages. The British Empire facilitated a knowledge of India's food tradition of "strong, penetrating spices and herbs".Food rationing policies, imposed by the British government during wartime periods of the 20th century, are said to have been the stimulus for British cuisine's poor international reputation.
The British are the second largest per capita tea consumers in the world, consuming an average of 2.1 kilograms (4.6 lb) per person each year.British tea culture dates back to the 19th century, when India was part of the British Empire and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent.
There is no single British language though English is by far the main language spoken by British citizens, being spoken monolingually by more than 70% of the UK population. English is therefore the de facto official language of the United Kingdom. However, under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Ulster Scots and Scots (or Lowland Scots) languages are officially recognised as Regional or Minority languages by the UK Government. As indigenous languages which continue to be spoken as a first language by native inhabitants, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic have a different legal status from other minority languages. In some parts of the UK, some of these languages are commonly spoken as a first language; in wider areas, their use in a bilingual context is sometimes supported and/or promoted by central and/or local government policy. For naturalisation purposes, a competence standard of English, Scottish Gaelic or Welsh is required to pass the life in the United Kingdom test. However, English is used routinely, and although considered culturally important, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh are seldom used and are effectively restricted in practice to remote rural areas.
Throughout the United Kingdom there are distinctive spoken expressions and regional accents of English, which are seen to be symptomatic of a locality's culture and identity. An awareness and knowledge of accents in the United Kingdom can "place, within a few miles, the locality in which a man or woman has grown up".
Britain has a long history of famous and influential authors. It boasts some of the oldest pieces of literature in the Western world, such as the epic poem Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving written work in the English language.
Women's literature in Britain has had a long and often troubled history, with many female writers producing work under a pen name, such as George Eliot. Other great female novelists that contributed to world literature were the Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne.
Non-fiction has also played an important role in the history of British letters, with the first dictionary of the English language being produced and compiled by Samuel Johnson, a graduate of Oxford University and a London resident.
Historically, Christianity "has been the most influential and important religion in Britain", and it remains the declared faith of the majority of the British people. The influence of Christianity on British culture has been "widespread, extending beyond the spheres of prayer and worship. Churches and cathedrals make a significant contribution to the architectural landscape of the nation's cities and towns" whilst "many schools and hospitals were founded by men and women who were strongly influenced by Christian motives". Throughout the United Kingdom, Easter and Christmas, the "two most important events in the Christian calendar", are recognised as public holidays.
Sport is an important element of British culture, and is one of the most popular leisure activities of British people. Within the United Kingdom, nearly half of all adults partake in one or more sporting activity each week. Some of the major sports in the United Kingdom "were invented by the British", including football, rugby union, rugby league and cricket, and "exported various other games" including tennis, badminton, boxing, golf, snooker and squash.
In most sports, separate organisations, teams and clubs represent the individual countries of the United Kingdom at international level, though in some sports, like rugby union, an all-Ireland team represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the British and Irish Lions represent the isles as a whole. The UK is represented by a single team at the Olympic Games and at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Great Britain team won 65 medals: 29 gold (the most since the 1908 Summer Olympics), 17 silver and 19 bronze, ranking them 3rd. In total, sportsmen and women from the UK "hold over 50 world titles in a variety of sports, such as professional boxing, rowing, snooker, squash and motorcycle sports".
A 2006 poll found that association football was the most popular sport in the UK. In England 320 football clubs are affiliated to The Football Association (FA) and more than 42,000 clubs to regional or district associations. The FA, founded in 1863, and the Football League, founded in 1888, were both the first of their kind in the world. In Scotland there are 78 full and associate clubs and nearly 6,000 registered clubs under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Football Association. One Welsh club play in England's Football League, one in the Premier league, and others at non-league level, whilst the Welsh Football League contains 20 semi-professional clubs. In Northern Ireland, 12 semi-professional clubs play in the IFA Premiership, the second oldest league in the world.
For centuries, artists and architects in Britain were overwhelmingly influenced by Western art history. Amongst the first visual artists credited for developing a distinctly British aesthetic and artistic style is William Hogarth. The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire, led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility in the United Kingdom. Britons used their art "to illustrate their knowledge and command of the natural world", whilst the permanent settlers in British North America, Australasia, and South Africa "embarked upon a search for distinctive artistic expression appropriate to their sense of national identity". The empire has been "at the centre, rather than in the margins, of the history of British art", and imperial British visual arts have been fundamental to the construction, celebration and expression of Britishness.
British attitudes to modern art were "polarised" at the end of the 19th century. Modernist movements were both cherished and vilified by artists and critics; Impressionism was initially regarded by "many conservative critics" as a "subversive foreign influence", but became "fully assimilated" into British art during the early-20th century.Representational art was described by Herbert Read during the interwar period as "necessarily... revolutionary", and was studied and produced to such an extent that by the 1950s, Classicism was effectively void in British visual art.Post-modern, contemporary British art, particularly that of the Young British Artists, has been pre-occupied with postcolonialism, and "characterised by a fundamental concern with material culture ... perceived as a post-imperial cultural anxiety".
To be British seems to us to mean that we respect the laws, the elected parliamentary and democratic political structures, traditional values of mutual tolerance, respect for equal rights and mutual concern; that we give our allegiance to the state (as commonly symbolized by the Crown) in return for its protection.
British political institutions include the Westminster system, the Commonwealth of Nations and Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Although the Privy Council is primarily a British institution, officials from other Commonwealth realms are also appointed to the body. The most notable continuing instance is the Prime Minister of New Zealand, its senior politicians, Chief Justice and Court of Appeal judges are conventionally made Privy Counsellors, as formerly were the prime ministers and chief justices of Canada and Australia. Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries which retain the British monarch as their sovereign continue to be sworn as Privy Counsellors.
The first group, which we term the ethnic dimension, contained the items about birthplace, ancestry, living in Britain, and sharing British customs and traditions. The second, or civic group, contained the items about feeling British, respecting laws and institutions, speaking English, and having British citizenship.
Of the two perspectives of British identity, the civic definition has become "the dominant idea ... by far", and in this capacity, Britishness is sometimes considered an institutional or overarching state identity. This has been used to explain why first-, second- and third-generation immigrants are more likely to describe themselves as British, rather than English, Scottish or Welsh, because it is an "institutional, inclusive" identity, that can be acquired through naturalisation and British nationality law; the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom who are from an ethnic minority feel British.
However, this attitude is more common in England than in Scotland or Wales; "white English people perceived themselves as English first and as British second, and most people from ethnic minority backgrounds perceived themselves as British, but none identified as English, a label they associated exclusively with white people". Contrawise, in Scotland and Wales, White British and ethnic minority people both identified more strongly with Scotland and Wales than with Britain.
Studies and surveys have "reported that the majority of the Scots and Welsh see themselves as both Scottish/Welsh and British though with some differences in emphasis". The Commission for Racial Equality found that with respect to notions of nationality in Britain, "the most basic, objective and uncontroversial conception of the British people is one that includes the English, the Scots and the Welsh". However, "English participants tended to think of themselves as indistinguishably English or British, while both Scottish and Welsh participants identified themselves much more readily as Scottish or Welsh than as British".
Some persons opted "to combine both identities" as "they felt Scottish or Welsh, but held a British passport and were therefore British", whereas others saw themselves as exclusively Scottish or exclusively Welsh and "felt quite divorced from the British, whom they saw as the English". Commentators have described this latter phenomenon as "nationalism", a rejection of British identity because some Scots and Welsh interpret it as "cultural imperialism imposed" upon the United Kingdom by "English ruling elites", or else a response to a historical misappropriation of equating the word "English" with "British", which has "brought about a desire among Scots, Welsh and Irish to learn more about their heritage and distinguish themselves from the broader British identity".
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Statistics Canada reported in 2006 that 6,570,015 Canadians identified themselves as having English ancestry, 4,719,850 Scottish, 440,965 Welsh and 403,915 from the British Isles (other than English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish). See: Statistics Canada (2006), "Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories", Canada 2006 Census (statcan.ca), retrieved 27 May 2009
The Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2011 showed that 7,238,500 Australians reported having English ancestry, and 1,792,600 reported having Scottish ancestry. The most commonly reported ancestry was English (36.1% of the population). Scottish ancestry was reported by 8.3% of the population. See: Australian Bureau of Statistics (21 June 2012), Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012–2013, abs.gov.au, retrieved 1 May 2014 In 2006, 63% of the population had reported British ancestry. See: Mansouri, Fethi, and Michele Lobo, Migration, Citizenship, and Intercultural Relations: Looking Through the Lens of Social Inclusion. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2011, p.30
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^ Historia de Chile, Británicos y Anglosajones en Chile durante el siglo XIX, biografiadechile.cl, retrieved 15 September 2009
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4.20 provides a translation describing Caesar's first invasion, using terms which from IV.XX appear in Latin as arriving "tamen in Britanniam", the inhabitants being "Britannos", and on p30 "principes Britanniae" is translated as "chiefs of Britain".
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