11 Pages

Introduction: Britain in the modern world

WithMike Storry, Peter Childs

Above all, nationality is a question of identity and so is crossed by other kinds of identity, such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, age, and occupation. This book aims to outline some of the kinds of identity found at those intersections in Britain at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As such, it will be implicitly questioning the difference between British cultural identities and cultural identities in Britain. Fifty years ago, T. S. Eliot famously said that ‘culture’ was something that included ‘all the characteristic activities and interests of a people’. He thought that this meant for England: ‘Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Gothic churches, and the music of Elgar’. Fifty years on, conceptions of English and British identity have changed enormously and, for example, few people would attribute any significance to the twelfth of August, the opening day of the grouse-shooting season. Moreover television, which didn’t feature for Eliot, would appear from Table 0.1 to be the main cultural bonding agent between British people.