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The Geography Sited
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Topical Citizenship and Geography



What Does It Mean To Be British ?


This page contains some thoughts, facts and conversation starters to help you consider 'being British' and having a British culture and identity. They do not seek to express any particular view but are intended to get you thinking about what people mean when they say 'Let's celebrate being British.'


01) 23 April is St George's Day - the day of the patron saint of England. St George was born in the 3rd Century, in what is now Turkey and he roamed around the Middle East. It seems he never set foot in England. It was in the year 1415 AD that St. George became the Patron Saint of England when English Soldiers under Henry V won the battle of Agincourt against the French. The day is not widely celebrated in England. Only 18% of the English people know the date of St George's day, according to a survey. He is also the patron saint of Moscow.

02) Most young English people say the England football team best defines their nationality. EastEnders and Coronation Street were rated higher than the Royal Family.

03) In England, 88% identify with the Union Flag and only 38% with the St George's Cross; but in Wales the dragon outscores the Union Flag by 85% to 55%.

04) "It was the British who won the Second World War. If we had been split… we couldn't have stood against Europe,".Winston Churchill, who also said that he felt British, but English on St George's Day.

05) The Scottish National Party want to break with England. But only a quarter of Scots want to see an independent Scotland.

06) Multiculturalism is nothing new to England. Its ancient settlers include the Romans,Germanic Jutes, Angles and Saxons, the Vikings, from Scandinavia, and the Normans and Huguenots, from France. Many of our place names are Roman, Anglo-saxon, Viking or Norman. Parts of placenames such as 'caster', 'chester', 'ham', 'ford', 'stead' and 'de la' all hint at foreign invaders using their own languages to name places.


07) "Thus from a mixture of all kinds began/ That heterogeneous thing, an Englishman… A true-born Englishman's a contradiction/ In speech an irony, in fact a fiction." Daniel Defoe (1660-1731).


08) Lenny Henry was regarded as English by 82% in a survey of the English. But less than a third considered England cricket captain, Nasser Hussain, to be English. Do you think their names or the amount of publicity they receive had anything to do with this?

09) "The death of the Queen Mother marks the beginning of the end of the British monarchy as we have known it all our lives. Crowned Queen Empress in 1937, she was our last surviving link with imperial Britain and her death heralds the passing of the generation that fought valiantly and suffered greatly during the Second World War." Billy Bragg 2006


10) "The word "England" conjures up many different images: from our great cities with their imposing Georgian and Victorian architecture to the Medieval castles and cathedrals of our country towns and the delightful villages and tranquil meadows of the rural shires, England's green and pleasant land. It is however our distinctive culture, values and traditions which are the unmistakable marks of English nationhood." The Royal Society of St .George

11) "We have to face uncomfortable facts that while the British response to July 7th was remarkable, they were British citizens, British born apparently integrated into our communities, who were prepared to maim and kill fellow British citizens irrespective of their religion. Gordon Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

12) "We have to be clearer now about how diverse cultures which inevitably contain differences can find the essential common purpose also without which no society can flourish." Gordon Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

13) When the Second World War ended, Britain needed more workers. The Royal Commission on Population reported in 1949 that immigrants of ‘good stock’ would be welcomed ‘without reserve’. Many immigrants from outside Europe, mainly from the Caribbean, Pakistan and India, came to Britain.

14)Remembrance Day was set up in 1919 to remember those who had died for Britain in the First World War and other conflicts.

15)Since the 1960’s Britain has passed four race relations acts, and set up the Commission for Racial Equality, all to try to stamp out racism and to ensure that racial equality is not just an idea but is a way of life.

16)A British national daily newspaper recently asked it's readers "what it means to be British" Here's a reply from a person in Switzerland...

"Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, and then traveling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV. And the most British thing of all? Suspicion of anything foreign."

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