The Politics of English Identity and Nationalism

Introduction

Recent decades have witnessed a rise in populist nationalist parties and movements across Europe, often driven by the social and economic resentments of elements of the working and middle classes, distrust of the European Union and antagonism towards levels of immigration in nation-states. The UK has lagged behind in the case of nationalist populism. In the case of England or England-Britain, we have a curious case where (English) national identity is partly submerged in a (British) state identity. Before examining the evidence for the possible rise of English identity and nationalism, we should look briefly at the historical circumstance which has made English national identity so problematic, and certainly more problematic than in the other nations of the British multinational state. The picture of England and Englishness is curiously blurred, and the most important reason for this is England’s relationship to Britain as the core nation of an imperial state (Bryant 2006) and its position as the most populous and powerful component of a multinational state (Kumar 2003). As we shall see when we examine the © The Author(s) 2017

R. Mann, S. Fenton, Nation, Class and Resentment, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46674-7_4

evidence for an emerging English identity and nationalism, the blending of Englishness with Britishness has made difficult the distillation of a distinct English identity.

 
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