Tag Archives: Anglo-Saxon

English and British?

A recurring subject on this blog has been the difference (and the inherent conflict) between the identities known as ‘British’ and ‘English’, respectively.

For many, if not most people in the Anglosphere, the identities and terms are interchangeable. I confess that for a good while I was prone to use the terms indiscriminately, though I understood that one can be ‘British’ but have no English blood. The two names describe something different. Even some of my readers in the UK on the old blog said that they often used the term ‘British’ when they really should have said ‘English.’

This post was prompted by a piece at the blog Christianity and Race, which in turn was inspired by a post by Mark Citadel at Citadel Foundations, titled ‘Little England’.  Good, thought-provoking pieces, both. I find little with which I can disagree in either post. I will say, with all due respect, that it may be a little unfair to attribute the ‘English vs. British’ problem to arrogance or hubris only on the part of the English. I know this is a common view of the English, as they were very much a dominant power in the world up until the early 20th century, when their empire began to break up/be broken up.

The original transformation of England into ‘Britain’ or ‘Great Britain’ began with the Act of Union in 1707. It was not by naked aggression or force on England’s part that this Union was effected, though I can certainly agree that, in retrospect, it set England on a course that was to be more damaging to the English than to any of the other ethnic groups who made up the state to be known as Great Britain, then the United Kingdom. Depending on which ethnic group your sympathies lie with, you may disagree. But it’s true that the other component ethnic groups within today’s UK can keep their ethnic identity, symbols, flags, customs, languages, and even their own parliaments, while England lacks those privileges. The English flag of St. George has been labeled ‘divisive’ and ‘hateful.’ England cannot decide its own fate without the input of the many other ethnic groups who now reside there. The English identity is labeled as ‘too exclusive’, because, let’s face it, one cannot be ‘English’ except by ancestry and by genetics. It is a blood kinship, just as is the Scottish or Welsh or Irish identity. Now, we read stories in the Irish media about the ‘new Irish’, with pictures of Africans or Asians smilingly holding their Irish citizenship papers. But no one is fooled by that; people know that Irishness is a matter of blood, as is ‘English.’ Papers and documents can’t confer Englishness  on anyone.

The comparison of the inclusive ‘British’ identity with the ‘American’ identity is a valid one; both are strictly civic identities, and thus they are artificial and arbitrary. One cannot create a real nation by fiat or by documents, and a nation is not a nation if it is based on an ideology or a ‘proposition.’  Britain, or the United Kingdom, has mistakenly followed the American example and is attempting to create a polyglot, multiracial ‘proposition nation’, and the results are looking disastrous. The Empire, unfortunately, laid the groundwork for this. Much as I admire Rudyard Kipling and his work, he tended to romanticize the Raj to some extent, and to establish the idea that someone like his character ‘Gunga Din’ could be ‘British’ in spirit though he was a Hindu. As the empire dissolved, bizarrely, the same Hindus who clamored to expel the British from their homeland soon chased after their former ‘oppressors’, desiring to live amongst them.  The same pattern happened with the Irish, many of whom chose to live in England despite their resentment of the hated ‘Brits’ in their homeland.

So it is not British, or ‘English’ hubris or ambition alone that created the situation; the circumstances are too complicated to merit that charge.

I agree with both of the cited blog posts that England should rediscover its particularistic identity, rather than clinging to this polyglot, all-things-to-all-people ‘British’ identity. I am admittedly a partisan, though I wish all the indigenous people(s) of the UK well, but I think it was the English who were and are the core of what was once ‘Great’ Britain; it was they who made it great. England, ‘Little’ or otherwise, would still be a great country should they go their own way, and let the component countries of the UK go their way.

The future, I hope, will go in the direction of decentralization, of a return to ethnic particularism, and away from polyglot, mixed-multitude empires, which eventually must end in some kind of internal strife and inevitable totalitarianism. The best case scenario would be what I call the ‘blender’, the mixing together of distinct identities into some amorphous mass, not a desirable outcome if we want to preserve the real diversity that exists amongst the various rich cultures of Europe.

Cecil Sharp on Appalachian Americans

I may have referred here to Cecil Sharp, the English folklorist who visited Virginia just over a century ago. He, along with his American assistant,  wanted to collect any folk songs of English origin that may still have been extant in that part of the country, and he found a great many old English ballads that were still preserved amongst the people of the Appalachians. Keep in mind that this is the part of the South that is said to have been settled mostly by Celtic  ‘Scots-Irish’ or Irish people, so this would seem an odd place to go looking for English folk songs and lore. Still, Sharp and his assistant were not disappointed in their quest, and Sharp wrote of the similarities between the rural Appalachian folk and their counterparts back in England.



This blog points out that Sharp’s descriptions stand in stark contrast to the stereotypes of people from that region that are popularly believed today. Here’s another site which is a good source of information about the subject.

As I love traditional music and all sorts of folklore I am fascinated by the story of Cecil Sharp and his mission to collect and help preserve the musical traditions of Appalachia. His work led to a cooperative effort between traditional music scholars and musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, in order to keep these traditions alive.

The demographic changes that are being imposed on even the more remote areas of the Southern U.S. will no doubt contribute to a weakening and possible loss of the culture and heritage overall. It is just not true that a culture can be preserved by just anybody; a culture is the product of a specific people, an extended kin-group who are genetically from the same source.  If a culture is a disembodied thing that can be transferred to any random ‘recipient’ then it is a museum piece, no longer a living tradition.

I hate to make this political, but there’s just no way around it. A people must be preserved in order for their culture to survive and continue.



Place names in the British Isles


The map shows the pattern of settlements by Celts, Saxons, Danes, and Norwegians in the British Isles, as reflected in the place names common to those areas. It’s informative when considering the popular beliefs as to the ethnic makeup of the various regions in Britain and Ireland.

For example, it looks as though the Saxon settlement extended up into the Northeast part of Britain, and those northern regions near Scotland provided a good many of the ‘Ulster plantation’ settlers in Northern Ireland. Obviously (as is already known) those settlers were usually not ‘Celtic’ in origin, as is popularly assumed by many Americans who claim ‘Scots-Irish’ origin.

It also looks as if there was more Danish settlement in Eastern England, which was the place of origin for many New England colonists.

The map is from Isaac Taylor’s ‘Words and Places, or Etymological Illustrations of History, Etymology, and Geography’, London, 1865

On an ‘Anglo-American Union’

W.T. Stead wrote, in the preface to his ‘Anglo-American Union’:

“The advent of the United States of America as the greatest of world-Powers is the greatest political, social, and commercial phenomenon of our times. For some years past we have all been more or less dimly conscious of its significance. It is only when we look at the manifold manifestations of the exuberant energy of the United States, and the world-wide influence which they are exerting upon the world in general and the British Empire in particular, that we realise how comparatively insignificant are all the other events of our time.

This survey is intensely interesting to all men, but it is of transcendant [sic] importance for my own countrymen. For we are confronted by the necessity of taking one of those momentous decisions which decide the destiny of our country. Unless I am altogether mistaken, we have an opportunity — probably the last which is to be offered us — of retaining our place as the first of world-Powers. If we neglect it, we shall descend slowly but irresistibly to the position of Holland and of Belgium. No one who contemplates with an impartial mind the array of facts now submitted to his attention, will deny that I have at least made out a very strong prima facie case in support of my contention that, unless we can succeed in merging the British Empire in the English-speaking United States of the World, the disintegration of our Empire, and our definite displacement from the position of commercial and financial primacy is only a matter of time, and probably a very short time. If, on the other hand, we substitute for the insular patriotism of our nation the broader patriotism of the race, and frankly throw in our lot with the Americans to realise the great ideal of Race Union, we shall enter upon a new era of power and prosperity the like of which the race has never realised since the world began. But ‘if before our duty we, with listless spirit, stand,’ the die will be cast, and we must reconcile ourselves as best we can to accept a secondary position in a world in which we have hitherto played a leading role.

If, on the contrary, we are resolute and courageous, we have it in our power to occupy a position of vantage, in which we need fear no foe and dread no rival. We shall continue on a wider scale to carry out the providential mission which has been entrusted to the English-speaking Race, whose United States will be able to secure the peace of the World.

It is, therefore, in no spirit of despair, but rather with joyful confidence and great hope that I commend this book to my fellow countrymen.

December, 1901,
W.T. Stead”

Obviously, Stead’s proposal of an Anglo-American Union was not to be, and Stead probably had little inkling of the coming two disastrous World Wars which would be so costly, in both lives and treasure,  to England and the British Empire overall. He probably couldn’t have envisioned the loss of the Empire with the decolonialization following the wars, and the ill-considered move to open Britain to the multiracial, polyglot peoples of the ‘Commonwealth’. This got under way in earnest in 1948, with the arrival of the Windrush, with its human cargo presaging the ‘diversity imperative’ of the post-war years.

It wasn’t until years later that the Labour government had decided (according to the words of Jack Straw) to ‘rub the nose of the [British] Right in diversity’. As we can see, though, this push to ‘multiculturalize’ Britain was already well under way by the 1990s. Britain and the indigenous English had already been somewhat conditioned, gradually, to accept this change. Just as in the United States, we had long been conditioned to believe that our country was a ‘melting pot’ of first, Europe’s peoples, and then the peoples of the entire planet, as the decades went by.

Various justifications were, and have been, offered as to why we ‘have to’ open our countries up to an array of peoples from every corner of the globe, and why this must be accelerated, regardless of its effect on us and on our children’s future prospects. Most often we are told that the ‘world is growing smaller, and we have to function as a ”global community”; that we can’t be independent and self-sufficient any longer in a ‘global society’. We can no longer have the luxury of freedom of assocation as invididuals nor can we, as nations, associate only with those we choose; we must be utterly indiscriminate.

Yet if this world still made sense, it would be most sensible to have closest ties with those who are of common origin with us, who speak the same language and share, to some degree, a similar culture and customs. Why then did Britain and the United States, despite the long (but now weakened) ‘special relationship’ between our countries, choose to go in the opposite direction? Why did both our countries choose to welcome utter strangers, with whom we have little to nothing in common (except 46 chromosomes, it seems) rather than to have sought, long ago, to enter into some kind of reciprocal relationship? Why did both countries (as well as the other countries of the Anglosphere) coincidentally go for the ‘diversity, one-world’ option? Of course my question is mostly rhetorical.

W.T. Stead’s idea of an Anglo-American United States may have been a misguided notion; it might not have been workable. There are many reasons why; in part, it may be that because both our nations, being stiff-necked and proud, regarded one another as rivals or competitors, and each of our nations’ governments felt the need to ‘prove’ something to the other. Americans have long been taught, implicitly if not explicitly, that our ‘democratic republic’ was far superior to the outdated system of the mother country; we were more committed to ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’ than our poor British cousins, who were mere ‘subjects’ , while we are ‘citizens of a free republic.’

Pride, and petty rivalry.

I am not sure that a “United States of the World’ will ever exist; if so, it will not be the nation most of us were born into. I am an ethnonationalist and not a pan-Europeanist. But it does seem baffling and counter-intuitive that we choose to join with strangers rather than kinsmen.

Teddy Roosevelt’s view of America’s founding stock

Carleton Putnam, in his book Race and Reality, quotes Teddy Roosevelt on America’s founding stock.

“[O]n the New England Coast the English blood was as pure as in any part of Britain; in New York and New Jersey it was mixed with that of the Dutch settlers—and the Dutch are by race nearer to the true old English of Alfred and Harold than are, for example, the thoroughly Anglicized Welsh of Cornwall. Otherwise, the infusion of new blood into the English race [more accurately, English amalgam] on this side of the Atlantic has been chiefly from three sources—German, Irish, and Norse; and these three sources represent the elemental parts of the composite English stock in about the same proportions in which they were originally combined—mainly Teutonic, largely Celtic, and with a Scandinavian admixture. The descendant of the German becomes as much an Anglo-American as the descendant of the Strathclyde Celt has already become an Anglo-Briton . . . It must always be kept in mind that the Americans and the British are two substantially similar branches of the great English race, which both before and after their separation have assimilated, and made Englishmen of many other peoples. . .

I agree with much of what Roosevelt says above, but the last sentence is something I have reservations about. I’ve bolded the pertinent part.  Obviously Roosevelt was more of a ‘civic nationalist’ and judging by what he says about the Americans and British ‘making Englishmen of many other  peoples‘ he believed in the melting pot, and in the limitless possibility of assimilating many disparate peoples. He may just have been using a little hyperbole when he says many other peoples were ‘made Englishmen‘ by assimilation. But whether or not he meant that phrase metaphorically, it’s been treated as truth by many people in the years since those words were written.

Oftentimes the civic nationalists in both the United States and in Britain have expressed the belief that if only, say, Moslems ‘assimilated’, learned good English, and ‘moderated’ their religious beliefs and cultures, they will be full members of their host countries. Is everyone assimilable, given the right instructions in how to be a ‘good citizen’ of America or of any Western country? It’s an article of faith in the religion that is civic nationalism, but there seems to be little evidence that it’s true.

One more thing I noticed about the quote from Roosevelt about what makes an ‘Anglo-American’: it seems that his views have become widely accepted in America now; everybody who is of northwestern European stock and who speaks English as their native language is now, for a lot of people, an ‘Anglo’ or ‘Anglo-American.’ Well, that’s very inclusive and all, but doesn’t that deprive those who are actually of English or British descent of their ethnic identity?




‘Don’t say you are English’

The following appears on this website, credited as shown below, apparently anonymously written.

(Found beside company photocopier)

Goodbye to my England – So long my old friend
Your days are now numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh, that’s just fine
But don’t say you’re English, that’s way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch,
You can say you are Russian, or maybe a Dane.
But don’t say you’re English, ever again

At Broadcasting House that word is taboo
In Brussels they’ve scrapped it, in Parliament too,
Even schools are affected, staff do as they’re told,
They mustn’t teach children about the England of old

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
Do the pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem or Mons
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons?

We are not Europeans how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea,
We’re the English from England, let’s all be proud-
Stand up and be counted –  shout it out loud!

Let’s tell our government – and Brussels too –
We’re proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue.
Fly the flag of St. George or the Union Jack.
Let the world know – WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK!

I have also found this poem somewhere else, credited to Terry Ogelthorpe. Whether the writer is anonymous or Terry Ogelthorpe,  it seems to represent a very real sentiment. We don’t hear or read much about English nationalism on this side of the Atlantic, so apparently the  unspoken rule against identifying as English has been pretty effective. In some cases it’s just ingrained habit, maybe, with most people accepting the common practice of using ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ interchangeably with ‘England’ and ‘English.’ But the terms are not the same, are they.

Here in the United States we have something of this ‘don’t say you are English’ habit, and a similar carelessness with using the terms ‘British’ and ‘English’. But for many Americans of English descent, we’ve got used to thinking of ourselves as ‘just Americans’, or identifying with our regional origin, as Southern people have traditionally done. Yet once upon a time many Southrons, if not most, explicitly spoke of their Anglo-Saxon origins.

Obviously, though, on both sides of the Atlantic, it just isn’t “in” or it simply isn’t “done” to openly say we are of English origin. And that’s more than a shame.



The early settlers of Virginia

From The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, by Bennett Wood Green, 1899

”We find many of the men connected with the early settlement of Virginia from Southwest England.  Of course there were many from London, Kent and other parts, but there were Cabot, Raleigh, Drake, the Gilberts, Somers, Basset, Botetourt, Cary, and others of the principal men from the Southwest.

Moreover, the west, above all districts of England, seems to have had a numerous gentry bound by constant intermarriages into a great clan, strongly animated by local pride and a peculiar love of country. These are striking characteristics of Virginians. In Virginia, essentially the whole of the white blood is English, that has been on the soil for over two hundred years.  It is not believed that there is any body of folk of as purely English stock as the white population of Virginia, and the States descended from here; and it amounts to about three millions of people, and there is scarcely any admixture of other blood. Nothing in their history shows the least falling off from the qualities that have always distinguished their race in all times and all places. The Virginian has a good opinion of himself, is calm, well-balanced, is self-reliant and has the English quality of not being afraid to take responsibility.”

[Emphasis above is mine.]

Of course, the above was written 118 years ago, and the Virginia of that day is not the Virginia of the 21st century. But it’s useful to look back at the origins of Virginia, and by extension, the rest of the South (‘and the States descended from here’), and to read that the original settlers of Virginia were overwhelmingly English by ancestry.

I plan to return to this book in future posts about the English language as it developed in the Virginia colony.