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Britishness is the state or quality of being British, or of embodying British characteristics. It comprises the claimed qualities that bind and distinguish the
British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixe ...
and form the basis of their unity and identity, and the expressions of
British culture British culture is influenced by the combined nations' history; its historically Christian religious life A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred t ...
—such as habits, behaviours, or symbols—that have a common, familiar or iconic quality readily identifiable with the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
. Dialogue about the legitimacy and authenticity of Britishness is intrinsically tied with power relations and politics; in terms of
nationhood A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, mora ...
and belonging, expressing or recognising one's Britishness provokes a range of responses and attitudes, such as advocacy, indifference, or rejection. Although the term 'Britishness' "
prang Prang may refer to: Places *Prang, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a town of Charsadda District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan *Prang Besar, an old name for Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia *Prang Ghar Tehsil or Pran Ghar Subdivision, a subdivision ...
into political and academic prominence" only in the late 20th century, its origins lie with the formation of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
in 1707. It was used with reference to Britons collectively as early as 1682, and the historian
Linda Colley Linda Colley, (born 13 September 1949 in Chester Chester is a walled cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the ...
asserts that it was after the
Acts of Union 1707 The Acts of Union ( gd, Achd an Aonaidh) were two Acts of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation In parliamentary systems and presidential systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legisl ...
that the ethnic groups of Great Britain began to assume a "layered" identity—to think of themselves as simultaneously British but also
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...
,
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
, and/or
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
. In this formative period, Britishness was "closely bound up with
Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the and of . It is the , with about 2.5 billion followers. Its adherents, known as , make up a majority of the population in , and believe that is the , whose comin ...
". The ''Oxford English Dictionary Online'' dates the first known use of the term Britishness to refer to the state of being British to a June 1857 issue of ''
Putnam's Monthly Magazine ''Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art'' was a monthly periodical published by G. P. Putnam's Sons featuring American literature and articles on science, art, and politics. Series The magazine had three incarnations. ...
''. Since the late 20th century, the exploration and proliferation of Britishness became directly associated with a desire to define, sustain or restore a homogeneous British identity or allegiance to Britain, prompting debate. For instance, the
Life in the United Kingdom test The Life in the United Kingdom test is a computer-based test constituting one of the requirements for anyone seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status granted to a pe ...
—reported as a test of one's Britishness—has been described as controversial. The
UK Independence Party The UK Independence Party (UKIP ) is a Eurosceptic Euroscepticism, also known as EU-scepticism, means criticism of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Unio ...
have asserted that Britishness is tied with inclusive
civic nationalism Civic nationalism, also known as liberal nationalism, is a form of nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used ...
, whereas the
Commission for Racial Equality The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was a non-departmental public body In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guar ...
reported that Scots, Welsh, Irish and
ethnic minorities A minority group, by its original definition, refers to a group of people whose practices, race, religion, ethnicity, or other characteristics are fewer in numbers than the main groups of those classifications. However, in present-day sociology, ...
may feel quite divorced from Britishness because of ethnic English dominance;
Gwynfor Evans Gwynfor Richard Evans (1 September 1912 – 21 April 2005) was a Welsh politician, lawyer and author. He was President of the Welsh political party Plaid Cymru Plaid Cymru ( ; ; officially Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales, often referred ...

Gwynfor Evans
, a
Welsh nationalist Welsh nationalism ( cy, Cenedlaetholdeb Cymreig) emphasises and celebrates the distinctiveness of Welsh language Welsh ( or ) is a Brittonic language of the Celtic language family The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of relate ...
politician, said that "Britishness is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh, and the Irish". Historians Graham Macphee and Prem Poddar state that Britishness and Englishness are invariably conflated as they are both tied to the identity of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
and UK; slippage between the two words is common. With regards to a proposed oath of allegiance for school leavers, historian
David Starkey David Robert Starkey (born 3 January 1945) is an English historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and ...
argued that it is impossible to teach Britishness because "a British nation doesn't exist".


Government perspective

Gordon Brown James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the h ...

Gordon Brown
, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and the chief executive officer of HM Treasury, Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Grea ...
, made a speech in 2006 to promote the idea of Britishness. Brown's speech to the
Fabian Society The Fabian Society is a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of democratic socialism Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that supports political democracy within a socially owned economy, wi ...
'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 British National Day is a proposed official national day for the United Kingdom and a celebration of Britishness. Currently the UK has no single official national day, although the Queen's Official Birthday is used for this purpose in some contexts. ...
' 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 UK. Does England require a new constitutional settlement for instance? The
British government ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size=220px, date_established = , state = United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, comm ...
has sought to promote Britishness with the inaugural Veterans' Day (now called
Armed Forces Day Many nations around the world observe some kind of Armed Forces Day to honor their military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare W ...
), first held on 27 June 2006. As well as celebrating the achievements of members of the armed forces, at the first event for the celebration Brown 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.
Critics have argued that Brown's sudden interest in the subject had more to do with countering English opposition to a
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...

Scottish
Member of Parliament becoming Prime Minister. In November 2007, ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its s ...
'' newspaper's ''Comment Central'' asked readers to define Britishness in five little words. The winning suggestion was "No motto please, we're British". A duty to promote
democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which people, the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to cho ...

democracy
forms a key part of the "duty to actively promote fundamental British values in schools" in the United Kingdom in accordance with section 78 of the
Education Act 2002 The Education Act 2002 (c.32) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Cro ...
. According to the
Department for Education The Department for Education (DFE) is the UK government department responsible for child protection Child protection is the safeguarding of children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Article 19 of the UN Convention on th ...
's advice for maintained schools in 2014, "Schools should promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs". The Government's ''Prevent'' strategy of 2011 was cited as the source of this list of values, but that strategy also contained a slightly different list: "democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind." The 2018 version of the
CONTESTCONTEST is the United Kingdom, United Kingdom's counter-terrorism strategy. It was first developed by Sir David Omand and the Home Office in early 2003 as the immediate response to 9/11, and a revised version was made public in 2006. Further revision ...
strategy codified the list as: * the rule of law * individual liberty * democracy * mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of different faiths and beliefs. The same advice stated that UK schools must: *encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes * nsure pupils acquirean understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process for example by * ncludingin suitable parts of the curriculum, as appropriate for the age of pupils, material on the strengths, advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and how democracy and the law works in Britain, in contrast to other forms of government in other countries; * nsuringthat all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes, such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils.Department for Education
Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools
November 2014
After the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to the United Kingdom in 2020, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a special address that listed "the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling" as characteristic of Britain.


Ethnicity and social trends

Not all people residing in England and the United Kingdom are
White White is the lightest color Color (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the Unite ...
due to immigration from other countries. According to the
2011 Census2011 censuses were conducted in the following countries: * Australia: Census in Australia * Austria: Demographics of Austria * Bangladesh: 2011 Bangladesh Census * Bulgaria: Demographics of Bulgaria * Canada: Canada 2011 Census * Croatia: 2011 Censu ...
in England, around 85.4% of residents are White (British, Irish, other European), 7.8% Asian (mainly
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia cov ...

South Asia
n), 3.5% Black, 2.3% are of
Mixed-race Multiracial people are people of more than one race or ethnicity. A variety of terms have been used for multi-racial people, including ''mixed-race'', ''biracial'', ''multiethnic'', ''polyethnic'', ''Métis The Métis (; ) are Indigenous ...
heritage, 0.4% Arab, and 0.6% identified as Other ethnicity, with a significantly higher non-white population in large cities such as
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
. A survey conducted in 2007 found that the majority of people in many non-white ethnic minority groups living in Great Britain described their national identity as British, English, Scottish or Welsh. This included almost nine in ten (87%) of people with mixed heritage, 85% of Black Caribbean people, 80% of Pakistanis and 78% of
Bangladeshi Bangladeshis ( bn, বাংলাদেশি ; formerly known as Bangalees) are the citizens of Bangladesh, a South Asian country centered on the transnational historical region of Bengal along the Bay of Bengal, eponymous bay. Bangladeshi ...
s. Non-whites were more likely to describe themselves as British than whites. One-third of people from the
White British White British is an Classification of ethnicity in the United Kingdom, ethnicity classification used for indigenous white British (English people, English, Scottish people, Scottish and Welsh people, Welsh), Irish people, Irish/People of North ...
group described themselves as British; the remaining two-thirds of respondents identified themselves as
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
, Welsh, or Scottish ethnic groups. A study conducted for the
Commission for Racial Equality The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was a non-departmental public body In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guar ...
(CRE) in 2005 found that, in England, the majority of ethnic minority participants identified primarily as British, whereas ethnic English participants identified as English first and British second. In
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
and
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, the majority of both white and ethnic minority participants identified as Welsh or Scottish first and British second, although they saw no incompatibility between the two identities. Other research conducted for the CRE found that white participants felt that there was a threat to Britishness from large-scale immigration, the "unfair" claims that they perceived ethnic minorities made on the
welfare state The welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equal o ...
, a rise in moral pluralism, and
political correctness ''Political correctness'' (adjectivally: ''politically correct''; commonly abbreviated ''PC'') is a term used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in soci ...
. Much of this frustration was found to be targeted at
Muslims Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...
rather than minorities in general. Muslim participants in the study reported feeling victimised and stated that they felt that they were being asked to choose between Muslim and British identities, whereas they saw it possible to be both at the same time.


Within the United Kingdom


England


Scotland

There is evidence that people in Scotland are increasingly likely to describe themselves as Scottish, and less likely to say they are British. A 2006 study by social scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, St Andrews and Lancaster shows that more than eight out of ten people in Scotland saw themselves as Scottish. At the same time, there has been a long-term decline in Scots defining themselves as British, although more than half of the people in the survey saw themselves as British. In the
2011 Census2011 censuses were conducted in the following countries: * Australia: Census in Australia * Austria: Demographics of Austria * Bangladesh: 2011 Bangladesh Census * Bulgaria: Demographics of Bulgaria * Canada: Canada 2011 Census * Croatia: 2011 Censu ...
in Scotland: *62% identified themselves as Scottish only *18% identified themselves as Scottish and British *8% identified themselves as British only The
Scottish National Party The Scottish National Party (SNP; sco, Scots National Pairty, gd, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba ) is a Scottish nationalist Scottish nationalism promotes the idea that the Scottish people form a cohesive nation and Scottish national iden ...
MSP MSP may refer to: Businesses and organizations * LoanSphere MSP, a mortgage servicing platform application provided by Black Knight Financial Services * Managed Service Provider, a company that is outsourced to take care of business's IT servic ...
and
Cabinet Secretary for Justice The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, commonly referred to as the Justice Secretary, is a position in the Scottish Government The Scottish Government ( gd, Riaghaltas na h-Alba, ) is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved government of Sc ...
,
Kenny MacAskill Kenneth Wright MacAskill (born 28 April 1958) is a Scottish politician who has been Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bi ...
gave the following submission to the
UK Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kin ...

UK Parliament
's Joint Committee on Human Rights in March 2008 discussing a British Bill of Rights:
What is meant by Britishness? Is there a concept of Britishness? Yes, just as there is a concept of being Scandinavian. We eat fish and chips, we eat chicken masala, we watch EastEnders. Are he SNPBritish? No, we are not. We consider ourselves Scottish.


Wales

Similar to Scotland, results from the Annual Population Survey (APS) conducted by the
Office for National Statistics The Office for National Statistics (ONS; cy, Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority cy, Y Bwrdd Ystadegau , seal = , logo = UK Statistics Authority logo.svg , formed = , jurisdiction = United Ki ...
, show that the majority of people residing in Wales describe themselves as
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
. Respondents were asked whether they considered their national identity to be 'Welsh', or 'Non-Welsh' (defined as: 'English', 'Scottish', 'Irish', 'British' or 'Other'). In June 2017, 63.2% of respondents in Wales defined their national identity as 'Welsh'.


Identity and politics

In a 1998 poll, 37% of
Scottish National Party The Scottish National Party (SNP; sco, Scots National Pairty, gd, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba ) is a Scottish nationalist Scottish nationalism promotes the idea that the Scottish people form a cohesive nation and Scottish national iden ...
voters stated themselves to be "Scottish, not British", the rest demonstrating some form of British identity, with the most popular choice being "More Scottish than British" (41%). This conclusion was again put forward in 2002, with similar figures cited. However, the British Social Attitudes Survey of 2007 found that only 21% of Scots saw themselves as 'Equally Scottish and British', with less than half choosing British as a secondary identity. The report concluded that 73% of respondents saw themselves as 'only' or 'mainly' Scottish.


See also

* British studies *
Cool Britannia Cool Britannia was a name for the period of increased pride in the culture of the United Kingdom British culture is influenced by the combined nations' history; its historically Christian religious life A religious institute is a type of ...
*
Cricket test The cricket test, also known as the Tebbit test, was a controversial phrase coined in April 1990 by the British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative politician Norman Tebbit in reference to the perceived lack of loyalty to the England cricket tea ...
*
Jacobean debate on the Union The Jacobean debate on the Union took place in the early years of the reign of James I of England, who came to the English throne in 1603 as James VI of Scotland, and was interested in uniting his Kingdoms of England (including Wales) and Scotland ...
* National colours of the United Kingdom


References


Footnotes


Bibliography

* * *


External links


Academy for the Study of Britishness

Who Do We Think We Are – Exploring Britishness diversity and identity

Being British

Mark Easton, ''How British is Britain?'', BBC report on 2011 census results, 30 September 2013
{{Nationalism in the United Kingdom 1707 establishments in Great Britain 1857 introductions 1850s neologisms British nationalism British culture History of nationality National identity Programmes of the Government of the United Kingdom Unionism in the United Kingdom United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations