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Jam es O ’ Driscoll

BRITAIN
FOR LEARNERS OF ENGLISH

James O ’Driscoll BRITAIN FOR LEA R N ER S OF ENGLISH OXFORD .

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4 Contents Introduction 06 Political life T he public attitude to politics • The style o f dem ocracy • The constitution • The style o f politics • T he party system • T h e modern situation 01 Country and people Geographically speaking • Politically speaking The fo u r nations • T h e dom inance o f England N ational loyalties 07 The monarchy so T h e appearance • The reality • The role o f the m onarch • The value o f the m onarchy • The future 02 History 15 Prehistory • The Rom an period (4 3 .4 1 0 ) • The Germ anic invasions (4 1 0 -1 0 6 6 ) • The medieval period (1 0 6 6 -1 4 5 8 ) • The sixteenth century • The seventeenth century • The eighteenth century The nineteenth century • The twentieth century 03 Geography 32 C lim ate • Land and settlem ent • The environment and pollution • London • Southern England • The M idlands o f England • Northern England • Scotland • W ales • Northern Ireland 04 Identity 69 o f the m onarchy 08 The government The cabinet • The Prime M inister service • Local government 85 The civil 09 Parliament 92 The atm osphere o f Parliam ent • An M P’s life Parliam entary business • The party system in Parliam ent • The House o f Lords 43 Ethnic identity: the fo ur nations • O ther ethnic identities • The fam ily • Geographical identity • C lass • Men and women • Social and everyday contacts • Religion and politics • Identity in N orthern Ireland • Being British • Personal identity: a sense o f hum our 05 Attitudes Stereotypes and change • English versus British • A m ulticultural society • Conservatism • Being different • Love o f nature • Love o f anim als • Public-spiritedness and am ateurism • Form ality and inform ality • Privacy and sex 58 10 Elections 99 The system • Formai arrangements • The campaign • Polling day and élection night • Recent results and the future • M odem issues 11 The law 107 The police and the public • Crim e and crim inal procedure • The system o f justice • The legal profession 12 International relations 113 British people and the rest o f the w orld • The British state and the rest o f the w orld • Transatlan tic relations • European relations • Relations inside G reat Britain • G reat Britain and N orthern Ireland .

and religious movements 14 Education 19 Housing 5 167 The benefits system • Social services and charities • T h e National Health Service • T h e medical profession 200 T h e arts in society • The characteristics o f British arts and letters < Theatre and cinem a • M usic • W ords • T h e fine arts 23 Holidays and special occasions 207 Trad itio nal seaside holidays • Modern holidays • C hristm as • New Year • O ther notable annual occasions . not flats • Private property and public property • T h e im portance o f ‘hom e’ • Individuality and conform ity • Interiors: the im portance o f cosiness • O wning and renting • Homelessness • The future Politics ■ Anglicanism • Catholicism • O ther conventional Christian churches • O th e r religions. churches.CONTENTS 13 Religion 121 130 Historical background • M odern tim es: the education debates • Style • School life • Public exams • Education beyond sixteen 15 The economy and everyday life 141 20 Food and drink Eating habits and attitudes • Eating out Alcohol • Pubs 21 Sport and competition 22 The arts 151 Th e im portance o f the national press • The two types o f national newspaper • The characteristics o f the national press: politics • The characteristics o f the national press: sex and scandal • T h e B BC • Television: organization • Television: style 17 Transport 161 On the road • Public tran sp o rt in tow ns and cities Public tran sp o rt between towns and cities • The channel tunnel • A ir and w ater 18 Welfare 183 190 A national passion • T h e social im portance o fs p o rt • Cricket • Football • Rugby • A nim als in spo rt • O ther sports • Gam bling Earning money: w orking life • W o rk organizations Public and private ind ustry • T h e distrib utio n o f w ealth • Using money: finance and investment • Spending money: shopping • Shop opening hours 16 The media 173 Houses.

This state is usually called The Republic o f Ireland. The other state has authority over the rest o f the area (the whole o f Great Britain. It w as first used to distinguish it from the sm aller area in France w hich is called ‘ B ritta n y’ in modern English. this is often N a tio n a l te a m s in s e le c te d s p o r t s England W ales Scotland Northern Ireland HBSSSlfl O lym pics G reat B ritain C ricket England and W ales Scotland Ireland Rugby union England Scotland Ireland Football England Scotland N orthern Ireland Republic o f Ireland Ireland | Republic o f Ireland . This chapter describes how this situation has come about and explains the many names that are used when people talk about Britain. This is a book about Britain. It is also called ‘Eire5(its Irish language name). In everyday speech. the situation would be simple . Geographically speaking Lying off the north-west coast o f Europe. at the United Nations and in the European parliament. there are two large islands and hundreds o f much smaller ones. The largest island is called Great Britain. there are a different number o f national teams which might be described as ‘British’. it is referred to as just ‘Ireland’ or ‘the Republic’. There is no agreement about what to call all o f them together (Looking for a name). so it is usually known by a shorter name.one country. for instance. Informally. But you can see that this is definitely not the case with Britain. This is the country that is the main subject o f this book. One o f these governs m ost o f the island o f Ireland. For each o f the four sports or sporting events listed in the table. but this is too long for practical purposes. The other large one is called Ireland (Great Britain and Ireland). At the Eurovision Song Contest. Its official name is The United Kingdom o f Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Politically speaking In this geographical area there are two states. in international sport.Country and people W h y is B r it a in ‘ G r e a t ? T h e origin o f the adjective ‘great’ in the name G reat B ritain w as not a piece o f advertising (although modern po litician s som etim es try to use it th at w a y !). the north-eastern area o f Ireland and m ost o f the smaller islands). it is referred to as ‘the United Kingdom’. But what exactly is Britain? And who are the British? The table below illustrates the problem. You might think that. one team.

it is clear th at Great B ritain . 4EIRI-) * UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND WALES ENGLAND L o n d on 200km Channel Islands The m ost comm on term at present is ‘G reat Britain and Ireland’. G r e a t B r it a in a n d Ire la n d L o o k in g f o r a n a m e It’s not easy to keep geography and politics apart. It is not correct geographically because it ignores all the sm aller islands. T h e north-west European archipelago’. But most people in Ireland and some people in Britain regard this name as outdated because it calls to mind the time when Ireland w as politically dom inated by Britain. The normal everyday adjective. And it is not correct politically because there are two sm all parts o f the area on the maps w hich have special political arrangements. Both are ‘ ruled’ by a Lieutenant G overnor appointed by the British government. In other contexts. is ‘British’ (W h y is Britain ‘Great?). Each has complete internal self-government. Ireland and all those sm aller islands belong together. ‘ ION A’ (Islands o f the North A tlantic) and simply T h e Isles’. the name ‘Britain’ is used. But even this is not strictly correct. Geographically speaking. for example. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.uk’. 9 . is the name you hear when a medal winner steps onto the rostrum at the Olympic Games. These are the Channel Islands and the Isle o f M an. w hich are ‘crown dependencies’ and not officially p art o f the U K. it is referred to as ‘Great Britain’. But none o f these has become widely accepted. SCO TLA N D NORTHERN IRELAND • So w hat can we call these islands? Am ong the names which have been used are ‘The north-east Atlantic archipelago’. when talking about something to do with the UK. So you w ould think there would be a (single) name fo r them . This. including its own parliam ent and its own tax system. they were generally called T h e British Isles'.POLITICALLY SPEAKING shortened to ‘the UK’ and in internet and email addresses it is ‘. B e lfa s t REPUBLIC OF IRELAND o**>un . In writing and speaking that is not especially formal or informal. The abbreviation CGBP’ (Great Britain Pounds) in international bank drafts is another example o f the use o f this name.

It was completed in 1800 when the Irish parliament was joined with the parliament for England. His appearance is typical o f an eighteenth century country gentleman. people in the Germanic areas spoke Germanic dialects (including the one which has developed into modern English). B ritan n ia rule the w aves’. The dom inant culture o f people in Ireland. alw ays shown w earing a helmet and holding a trident (the symbol o f power over the se a). (H e can be compared to Uncle Sam in the U S A . and its use can make some people angry. C am bria and H ibernia were the Rom an nam es fo r S c o tla n d . England is only one o f cthe four nations’ in this part o f the world. that o f people in England and Lowland Scotland was Germanic.10 COUNTRY AND PEOPLE The four nations S o m e h is t o r ic a l a n d p o e tic nam es Albion is a word used by poets and songwriters to refer. Erin is a poetic name fo r Ireland. The nations also tended to have different economic. to England or to Scotland or to Great Britain as a whole. culture and lifestyle varied enormously across the four nations. and Ireland. m ost o f Ireland became a separate state (see chapter 12). Scotland. It comes from a Celtic word and w as an early Greek and Roman name for Great Britain. They call it ‘England5. The figure o f B rita n n ia has been on the reverse side o f m any British coins fo r more than 3 0 0 years. T h e w ords are co m m o n ly used to day in scho larly classifica tio n s (fo r exam ple. W ales and Ireland respectively. in 1922. However. It is also the name given to the fem ale em bodim ent o f B rita in . the area o f present-day England and W a les). Their political unification was a gradual process that took several hundred years (see chapter 2). and Wales in Westminster.the United Kingdom o f Great Britain and Ireland. so that the whole area became a single state .) He appears in hundreds o f nineteenth century cartoons. Wales. the type o f English used in Ireland is som etim es called ‘ HibernoE ng lish ’ and there is a division o f geological tim e known as ‘the C am b rian p erio d ’ ) and fo r the nam es o f o rg an izatio ns (fo r exam ple. At one time. But this is not correct. Britannia is the name th at the R om ans gave to their southern British province (w h ich covered. approxim ately. Caledonia. This difference was reflected in the languages they spoke. People in the Celtic areas spoke Celtic languages. meaning white. Wales and Highland Scotland was Celtic. ‘G lasgo w C a le d o n ia n ’ U niversity). The Rom ans associated Great Britain with the Latin word ‘albus’. evoking an idyllic rural past (see chapter 5). . T h e ir heirs are thought to be the W elsh and th eir language has developed into the modern W elsh language. The white chalk cliffs around Dover on the English south coast are the first land form ations one sights when crossing the sea from the European m ainland. and legal systems. in different contexts. hence the patrio tic song which begins ‘ Rule B rita n n ia .4 1 0 ). O t h e r s ig n s o f n a tio n a l id e n tity Briton is a w ord used in official contexts and in w ritin g to describe a citizen o f the United Kingdom . Today. social. People often refer to Britain by another name. ‘A n cien t B rito n s’ is the name given to the people w ho lived in southern B ritain before and during the Rom an o ccup ation (A D 4 3 . John Bull (see below) is a fictional character who is supposed to personify Englishness and certain English virtues. The others are Scotland. evoking the lush greenery o f its co un trysid e. and they were independent o f each other. somebody dressed as him often appears at football or rugby matches when England are playing. The Em erald Isle is an o ther w ay o f referring to Ireland.

If the person using one o f these names is not a friend. they indicate some slight differences in the value attached to certain kinds o f behaviour in these countries. Price. A large num ber o f surnam es (fo r example. Nevertheless. Evans.THE FOUR NATIONS Today.g. Moreover. a skirt with a tartan pattern worn by men. George St. For instance. the Scots have a reputation fo r being careful with money and the W elsh are renowned fo r their singing ability. Scottish and Welsh men. David St. Welsh. W illia m s) suggest W elsh origin. M acD o nald) is Scottish or Irish. These are. Surnames Th e prefix ‘ M ac’ or ‘M e’ (such as M cC all. ‘ M icks’). T h e prefix ‘O ’ (as in O ’ Brien. these differences have become blurred. Patrick Sa in t’s day 23 April 1 M arch 30 November 17 M arch 1 there is some disagreement among Welsh people as to which is the real national plant. A ndrew ’s Cross St. is a very well-known symbol o f Scottishness (though it is hardly ever w orn in everyday life). but the leek is the m ost well-known 2 as typically worn by sports teams o fth e different nations 11 O th e r to k e n s o f n a tio n a l id e n tity Th e following are also associated by British people with one or more o fth e four nations. Scottish men are sometimes known and addressed as ‘Jo ck’. George’s Cross Dragon o f C ad w allad er rose leek/daffodil1 Scotland Ireland St. Jones. Scottish and Irish people feel their identity very strongly. Irishmen are called ‘ Paddy’ or ‘ M ick’ and Welshmen as ‘ D ai’ o r ‘Taffy’. and especially if it is used in the plural (e. Outside their own countries. C h a r a c t e r is t ic s There are certain stereotypes o f national character w hich are well known in B ritain . First names for men The Scottish o f ‘Jo h n ’ is ‘ Ian’ and its Irish form is ‘Sean’. there are also nicknames fo r Irish. and everybody gets the same passport regardless o f where in Britain they live. although all three names are common throughout Britain. Clothes T h e kilt. the Irish are supposed to be great talkers. it can sound insulting. Id e n tify in g s y m b o ls o f th e f o u r n a tio n s Flag Plant England W ales -H iM i St. For instance. Patrick’s Cross Lion Ram pant Republic o f Ireland thistle sham rock □ C o lo u r2 Patron saint St. . many aspects o f government are organized separately (and sometimes differently) in the four parts o f the United Kingdom. M organ. but they have not completely disappeared. O ’C o nn o r) is Irish. o f course. T h e m ost comm on surnam e in both England and Scotland is ‘Sm ith ’. That is why they have separate teams in many kinds o f international sport. Andrew St. only caricatures and not reliable descriptions o f individual people from these countries. M acC arthy. Although there is only one government for the whole o f Britain.

the supply o f money in Britain is controlled by the Bank o f England (there is no such thing as a ‘Bank o f Britain’). (Right) A harp. the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.6 These figures are estimates provided by the O ffice for National Statistics (England and W ales). The dominance o f England There is. although a sm aller type is also used in trad itio n a l Irish m usic. (Far right) A Scottish bagpipe. Many aspects o f everyday life are organized according to English custom and practice. it happened because England was able to assert her economic and military power over the other three nations (see chapter 2). an excuse for the people who use the word ‘England’ when they mean ‘Britain’.12 C O U N T R Y A N D PEOPLE Populations in 2 0 06 Northern Ireland Scotland m m m © Wales England (figures in millions) U K Total 60. and English is the main language o f all four nations. In the twenty-first century. English dom ination can be detected in the way in which various aspects o f British public life are described. She is universally known as ‘Elizabeth II’. The system o f politics that is used in all four nations today is o f English origin. In addition. Thus there is a specialist newspaper called . M u s ic a l in s tr u m e n ts T h e harp is an emblem o f both W ales and Ireland. there is a tendency in the names o f publications and organizations to portray England as the norm and other parts o f Britain as special cases. (Elizabeth I o f England and Wales ruled from 1553 to 1603).) When newspapers and the television news talk about ‘Anglo-American relations’. The common use o f the term ‘Anglo’ is a further indication. Bagpipes are regarded as distinctively S co ttish . even though Scotland and Northern Ireland have never had an ‘Elizabeth I’. Another example is the name o f the present monarch. they are talking about relations between the governments o f Britain and the USA (and not ju st England and the USA). Today. On the contrary. But the political unification o f Britain was not achieved by m utual agreement. For example. The word ‘England’ is derived from their name. (The Angles were a Germanic tribe who settled in England in the fifth century. perhaps. It cannot be denied that the dom inant culture o f Britain today is specifically English. the total population o f Britain has risen by about a quarter o f a million each year.