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A conversation on national identity

It could be argued that the English always have discussed their national identity at length, if not 'with arms', and rarely at the dinner table. This book introduces the diversity of reflection on Englishness in a number of stages. 'Versions' of England are particularly apparent when reading contemporary travel writing on and about England. The relationship between the claims of continuity and the claims of change can be captured by understanding Englishness as conversation. The book brings together insights from English history, politics, constitutional affairs, literature, psephology and social psychology to provide a digest of current reflection and is divided into three complementary parts. In the first part, the nuances and subtleties of Englishness are explored. It also explores the conceptual structure and sociological texture of what such a cosmopolitan England would look like. The part discusses conversational etiquette of English national self-identification, the fear of an 'English backlash', and the non-white ethnic minority communities. The second part considers Englishness in politics and institutions. After 1997, the Labour government believed that devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland dealt with England in the appropriately English way: pragmatic adjustment without provocation. It includes discussions on Conservatism and Englishness, Gordon Brown and the negation of England, and the Britain central government. The third part reprises the themes discussed in the previous parts with a historical and literary emphasis. It includes discussions on the changing face of Englishness, and the English union in the writings of Arthur Mee and G.K. Chesterton.

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These Englands – a conversation on national identity
Arthur Aughey and Christine Berberich

This chapter introduces the diversity of reflection on Englishness in a number of stages. It considers that distinctive manner of discussing national identity that often comes in the form and shape of 'listing'. The chapter attempts to show how that diversity also involves a common reference to England. 'Versions' of England are particularly apparent when reading contemporary travel writing on and about England. The chapter tries to complete the picture by adapting two ideas from the work of the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott. The first of these is the metaphor of the 'dry wall' which was originally used to explain the character of historical change. The second is the idea of politics as conversation. Conversation has been termed Oakeshott's 'great image' where the human condition is nothing other than people 'acting and speaking in response to one another'.

in These Englands
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Christine Berberich and Arthur Aughey

Anxieties about England, the English and Englishness are intimately connected with concern for the country itself, about its political, civil, social and cultural character as revealed in the concrete references preferred by all those English list-makers. Stephen Ingle and Matt Beech have shown the importance of the idea of 'conversation' at party-political level. None of the big parties can boast a straightforward history with unanimity on direction and policy. Susan Condor, John Curtice and Paul Thomas have emphasised a different kind of conversation: research interviews that allow participants to voice their opinion about national identity, its varied expression and institutionalisation. Simon Lee illustrates that 'vague mental toothache' noted by H.V Morton, an English disquiets more often based on the feeling that they should feel anxious rather than the actual state of being anxious.

in These Englands