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On the Peculiarities of Britishness

December 30th, 2008

Because we are an island of four languages – English, Welsh, Scottish and Gaelic – we have made communication our greatest achievement. We dislike the arts of display, we took hundreds of years to learn to make music and paint, but our writers have produced the world’s greatest literature.

Because we also love understatement, we do not glorify these writers. Here is a trivia question: where is the public statue of Shakespeare in London? There is only one, on the Albert Memorial, where the Bard sits at the feet of Homer. The greatest writer in the world and we put him beneath a long dead Greek…

Reduced, after an age of empire, to our own island, Britain’s advantages continue, and with them, an awareness that we have had throughout our history: that the only way for the British to continue to thrive is to get on with others. That is why the greatest British fear, that of offending someone, really matters.

Ronald Hutton, Professor of History Bristol University

From an article in The Times viewable online here.

4 Responses to “On the Peculiarities of Britishness”

  1. An interesting article, but I believe slightly inaccurate (just to be picky) as there is a statue leaning out of the upstairs window of The Shakespeare’s Head pub in Carnaby Street!

  2. “That is why the greatest British fear, that of offending someone, really matters.”
    I don’t agree with that. That’s something I call being repressed. Imagine all of that energy being repressed simply for the conventional sake of “politeness”. That’s a cause for a psychological hernia in the nation, manifesting in chavs, football hooligans and larger louts, the so-called “trash culture,” (perhaps because it’s the bin of the British psyche) compensating the rest of the nation’s “politeness” because no one knows a way to express themselves healthily. Then there’s the unhelpful habit of “moaning for the sake of moaning” we tend to be so good at, but we’re too polite (read repressed) to get up and do anything about it. That, and fitting and Empire-sized mentality into an island mentality can’t be healthy. Sounds like a case of post-Imperial depression to me.

    Aaaah, expression, that felt good. 🙂

    Oh dear, gosh, good grief, I can’t believe that I had the utter nerve to say that. Tea. Must have a good cup of tea. Settles the nerves, what what! 😉 LOL

    It’s an interesting article and there are some quite good comments left there too.

  3. Ahem… that’s supposed to be lager louts! Although, yes, it can have the effect of making them larger LOL

  4. Hi TreeGod,

    Hutton enjoys turning things upside down and seeing the positive hiding in the negative and vv. But Larger Louts there’s something to think about! Yikes!

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