‘I think English people struggle with their own identity,’ says Rachel [Unthank].
‘Celebrating being English could be seen as being colonial or right-wing which
is the opposite of what folk music is all about. Folk music is about working men
and women and their lives and troubles. These traditions, dances, and songs just
happen to be English but they are something English people can say are our own
and are a way of saying “I am proud to be English”.’ (Andrews, 2011)
The newspaper article from which this extract is taken, profiling the folk band
English radicalism has been a deep-rooted but minority tradition in the political culture since at least the seventeenth century. The central aim of this book is to examine, in historical and political context, a range of key events and individuals that exemplify English radicalism in the twentieth century. This analysis is preceded by defining precisely what has constituted this tradition; and by the main outline of the development of the tradition from the Civil War to the end of the nineteenth century. Three of the main currents of English radicalism in the twentieth century have been the labour movement, the women’s movement and the peace movement. These are discussed in some detail, as a framework for the detailed consideration of ten key representative figures of the tradition in the twentieth century: Bertrand Russell, Sylvia Pankhurst, Ellen Wilkinson, George Orwell, E.P. Thompson, Michael Foot, Joan Maynard, Stuart Hall, Tony Benn and Nicolas Walter. The question of ‘agency’ – of how to bring about radical change in a predominantly conservative society and culture – has been a fundamental issue for English radicals. It is argued that, in the twentieth century, many of the important achievements in progressive politics have taken place in and through extra-parliamentary movements, as well as through formal political parties and organisations – the Labour Party and other socialist organisations – and on occasion, through libertarian and anarchist politics. The final chapter considers the continuing relevance of this political tradition in the early twenty-first century, and reviews its challenges and prospects.
This book looks in detail at the growth in popularity and profile of the English folk arts in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Based on original research within English folk culture, it is the only ethnographic study of its kind. The book first examines the salient characteristics of the twenty-first-century English folk resurgence. Then, it looks at the development of a 'folk industry', beginning with a broad analysis of the historical context of the first two folk revivals. Taking the emergence of folk industry conferences as a case study, it traces the folk industry's web of intersecting institutions and discourses. Its second case study of the new folk club the Magpie's Nest examines further the coming together of commercialisation and professionalisation with the folk ethos. The book also discusses the actual music and dance being performed within the English folk arts, and considers the ways in which these texts are engaging with both popular and high-art cultural products and processes. It gives a brief contextualisation of the wider cultural interest in Englishness within which the folk resurgence is situated. Following on from the exploration of England, the book analyses the versions of Englishness that can be found within the work of contemporary English folk artists. The book codifies a range of English identities under construction in the resurgence, and examines their politics. It concludes with a consideration of some broader theoretical issues raised by the author's findings.
At a time when monolingualist claims for the importance of ‘speaking English’ to the national order continue louder than ever, even as language diversity is increasingly part of contemporary British life, literature becomes a space to consider the terms of linguistic belonging. Bad English examines writers including Tom Leonard, James Kelman, Suhayl Saadi, Raman Mundair, Daljit Nagra, Xiaolu Guo, Leila Aboulela, Brian Chikwava, and Caroline Bergvall, who engage multilingually, experimentally, playfully, and ambivalently with English’s power. Considering their invented vernaculars and mixed idioms, their dramatised scenes of languaging – languages learned or lost, acts of translation, scenes of speaking, the exposure and racialised visibility of accent – it argues for a growing field of contemporary literature in Britain pre-eminently concerned with language’s power dynamics, its aesthetic potentialities, and its prosthetic strangeness. Drawing on insights from applied linguistics and translation studies as well as literary scholarship, Bad English explores contemporary arguments about language in Britain – in debates about citizenship or education, in the media or on Twitter, in Home Office policy and asylum legislation – as well as the ways they are taken up in literature. It uncovers both an antagonistic and a productive interplay between language politics and literary form, tracing writers’ articulation of linguistic alienation and ambivalence, as well as the productivity and making-new of radical language practices. Doing so, it refutes the view that language difference and language politics are somehow irrelevant to contemporary Britain and instead argues for their constitutive centrality to the work of novelists and poets whose inside/outside relationship to English in its institutionalised forms is the generative force of their writing.
commentary and notes
Early in her important work on manuscript verse miscellanies, Mary
Hobbs rejoices in the rich mine of such collections opened up to scholars
by Beal’s ‘painstakingly thorough’ Index of English Literary Manuscripts:
When scholars have had time to digest his many exciting discoveries, this
unimaginable wealth of new material will revolutionize studies of seventeenth-century poetry: to name but one find, the rediscovery of the Burley
manuscript of Donne’s poems that Grierson mistakenly thought had been
The Venerable Bede has often been held as creator of a single collective identity
for the Germanic inhabitants of Britain: the English (gens Anglorum). This
article examines how Bede crafted his notion of Englishness, reviewing his use
of terms for nation, race and peoples to exclude those of whom he did not
approve. It included the Northumbrians and the people of Kent whom Bede regarded
as the progenitors of the English Church. It excluded the Mercians who were
rivals and sometime enemies of Bede‘s own people, the Northumbrians. By the time
Bede finished his account (731) the term gens Anglorum had begun to lose its
usefulness in binding together the Northumbrians and Kentishmen as custodians of
a unitary Church. After Bede terminology remained unstable, writers such as
Boniface or Alcuin being as likely to call the people of England Saxons as
Angles/English. Bedes role as the father of Englishness is thus here nuanced and
seen to be historically contingent.
On 18 January 2012, the BBC Radio 3 arts programme Night Waves presented a discussion of the conservative philosophy of Sir Roger Scruton alongside Grant Gee's documentary, Patience ( 2013 ), exploring W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn . At first glance it is an odd pairing, for what does the melancholic wanderings of W. G. Sebald through Norfolk and Suffolk share with Sir Roger Scruton's conservative philosophy of Englishness? The extract from After Patience aired by Nightwaves contains an important clue. The psychoanalyst Adam
Foreign culture, race and the Anglicisation of popular dance
English style: foreign culture,
race and the Anglicisation of
n May 1920, Britain’s leading dance professionals assembled in London and
initiated the process that culminated in the creation of the English style of
ballroom dance. As has been shown, the decision to standardise modern ballroom
dancing was taken for several reasons, including a perceived need for consistency
in what was being taught in dancing schools and a desire to insulate dancing
from the attacks of critics. However, there was another critical dimension to
This book provides a digest of the debates about England and Englishness, as well as a unique perspective on those debates. Not only does it provide readers with ready access to and interpretation of the significant literature on ‘The English Question’, but it also enables them to make sense of the political, historical and cultural factors which constitute that question, addressing the condition of England in three interrelated parts. The first part looks at traditional narratives of the English polity and reads them as legends of political Englishness, of England as the exemplary exception, exceptional in its constitutional tradition and exemplary in its political stability. The second part considers how the decay of that legend has encouraged anxieties about English political identity, of how English identity can be recognised within the new complexity of British governance. The third part revisits these legends and anxieties, examining them in terms of the actual and metaphorical ‘locations’ of Englishness: regionalism, Europeanism and Britishness.
sweeping back down from Teesside to Thames
The diaries of Henry Nevinson and the Blathwayts, the Housmans’ correspondence, plus Jessie Stephenson’s autobiographical typescript and Hannah Mitchell’s
published memoir – such evidence is as precious as it is rare. For most local
communities, there is sadly little personal testimony to supplement the census
schedules themselves, and only limited press coverage. Yet we need to look more
widely across England than these four case studies, to visit a more representative
range of local communities