- For an explanation of often-confusing terms like England, (Great) Britain and United Kingdom see British Isles (terminology).
| Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit|
(Translated: "God and my right")
|England's location within Europe|
| England's location within the UK|
England's location within the UK
|Official language||English de facto|
|Capital||London de facto|
| Ranked 1st UK|
– Total (mid-2004)
| Ranked 1st UK|
|Ethnicity: (Census 2001)||90.92% White|
4.57% South Asian
|Religion|| Church of England: 31,500,000|
Roman Catholic: 5,000,000
Eastern Orthodox: 250,000
|Unification|| 927 by|
|Currency||Pound sterling (£) (GBP)|
|Time zone|| UTC / (GMT)|
Summer: UTC +1 (BST)
|National anthems|| None officially|
|National flower||the Tudor rose (red, white)|
|Patron saint||St George|
England is a nation and the largest and most populous constituent country of the United Kingdom accounting for more than 83% of the total UK population. It occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and shares land borders with fellow home nations Scotland, to the north, and Wales, to the west. Elsewhere, it is bordered by the sea.
England is named after the Angles, one of a number of Germanic tribes believed to have originated in Angeln in Northern Germany, who settled in England in the 5th and 6th centuries. It has not had a distinct political identity since 1707, when Great Britain was established as a unified political entity; however, it has a legal identity separate from those of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of the entity "England and Wales;". England's largest city, London, is also the capital of the United Kingdom.
Main article: History of England
England has been inhabited for at least 500,000 years, although the repeated Ice Ages made much of Britain uninhabitable for extended periods until as recently as 20,000 years ago. Stone Age hunter-gatherers eventually gave way to farmers and permanent settlements, with a spectacular and sophisticated megalithic civilisation arising in western England some 4,000 years ago. It was replaced around 1,500 years later by Celtic tribes migrating from Western and continental Europe, mainly from France. These tribes were known collectively as "Britons", a name bestowed by Phoenician traders — an indication of how, even at this early date, the island was part of a Europe-wide trading network.
The Britons were significant players in continental affairs and supported their allies in Gaul militarily during the Gallic Wars with the Roman Republic. This prompted the Romans to invade and subdue the island, first with Julius Caesar's raid in 55 BC, and then the Emperor Claudius' conquest in the following century. The whole southern part of the island — roughly corresponding to modern day England and Wales — became a prosperous part of the Roman Empire. It was finally abandoned early in the 5th century when a weakening Empire pulled back its legions to defend borders on the Continent.
Unaided by the Roman army, Roman Britannia could not long resist the Germanic tribes who arrived in the 5th and 6th centuries, enveloping the majority of modern day England in a new culture and language and pushing Romano-British rule back into modern-day Wales and western extremities of England, notably Cornwall and Cumbria. Others emigrated across the channel to modern-day Brittany, thus giving it its name and language (Breton). But many of the Romano-British remained in and were assimilated into the newly "English" areas.
The invaders fell into three main groups: the Jutes, the Saxons, and the Angles. As they became more civilised, recognisable states formed and began to merge with one another. (The most well-known state of affairs being the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.) From time to time throughout this period, one Anglo-Saxon king, recognised as the "Bretwalda" by other rulers, had effective control of all or most of the English; so it is impossible to identify the precise moment when the Kingdom of England was unified. In some sense, real unity came as a response to the Danish Viking incursions which occupied the eastern half of "England" in the 8th century. Egbert, King of Wessex (d. 839) is often regarded as the first king of all the English, although the title "King of England" was first adopted, two generations later, by Alfred the Great (ruled 871–899).
The principal legacy left behind in those territories from which the language of the Britons were displaced is that of toponyms. Many of the place-names in England and to a lesser extent Scotland are derived from celtic British names, including London, Dumbarton, York, Dorchester, Dover and Colchester. Several place-name elements are thought to be wholly or partly Brythonic in origin, particularly bre-, bal-, and -dun for hills, carr for a high rocky place, coomb for a small deep valley.
Until recently it has been believed that those areas settled by the Anglo-Saxons were uninhabited at the time or the Britons had fled before them. However, genetic studies show that the British were not pushed out to the Celtic fringes – many tribes remained in what was to become England (see C. Capelli et al. A Y chromosome census of the British Isles. Current Biology 13, 979–984, (2003)). Capelli's findings strengthen the research of Steven Bassett of the University of Birmingham; his work during the 1990s suggests that much of the West Midlands was only very lightly colonised with Anglian and Saxon settlements.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
The English are great lovers of themselves, and of everything belonging to them; they think that there are no other men than themselves, and no other world but England; and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say that 'he looks like an Englishman', and that 'it is a great pity that he should not be an Englishmen'.
Early 16th century
Charlotte Augusta Sneyd
Italian Relations of England (p. 20)
In 1066, William the Conqueror and the Normans conquered the existing Kingdom of England and instituted an Anglo-Norman administration and nobility who, retaining proto-French as their language for the next three hundred years, ruled as custodians over English commoners. Although the language and racial distinctions faded rapidly during the middle ages, the class system born in the Norman/Saxon divide persisted longer — arguably with traces lasting to the modern day.
While Old English continued to be spoken by common folk, Norman feudal lords significantly influenced the language with French words and customs being adopted over the succeeding centuries evolving to a Romance-Germanic hybrid of Middle English widely spoken in Chaucer's time.
England came repeatedly into conflict with Wales and Scotland, at the time an independent principality and an independent kingdom respectively, as its rulers sought to expand Norman power across the entire island of Britain. The conquest of Wales was achieved in the 13th century, when it was annexed to England and gradually came to be a part of that kingdom for most legal purposes, although in the modern era it is more usually thought of as a separate nation (fielding, for example, its own athletic teams). Norman power in Scotland waxed and waned over the years, with the Scots managing to maintain a varying degree of independence despite repeated wars with the English. Although it was on the whole only a moderately successful power in military terms, England became one of the wealthiest states in medieval Europe, due chiefly to its dominance in the lucrative wool market.
The failure of English territorial ambitions in continental Europe prompted the kingdom's rulers to look further afield, creating the foundations of the mercantile and colonial network that was to become the British Empire. The turmoil of the Reformation embroiled England in religious wars with Europe's Catholic powers, notably Spain, but the kingdom preserved its independence as much through luck as through the skill of charismatic rulers such as Elizabeth I. Elizabeth's successor, James I was already king of Scotland (as James VI); and this personal union of the two crowns into the crown of Great Brittaine was followed a century later by the Act of Union 1707, which formally unified England, Scotland and Wales into the Kingdom of Great Britain. This later became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801 to 1927) and then the modern state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1927 to present)
For post-unification history, see history of the United Kingdom.
Since the promulgation of the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan and the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542, Wales has shared a legal identity with England as the joint entity of England and Wales. The Act of Union with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707 created the Kingdom of Great Britain, subsuming England, Wales and Scotland into a single political entity. Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, retain separate legal systems. The duchy of Cornwall also retains some unique rights.
All of Great Britain has been ruled by the government of the United Kingdom since that date, although in 1999 the first elections to the newly created Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales left England as the only part of the Union with no devolved assembly or parliament. As all legislation for England is passed by Parliament at Westminster there are some complaints about the ability of non-English Members of Parliament to influence purely English affairs. This apparent anomaly has been highlighted by both English and non-English politicians, often those opposed to devolution, and has become popularly known as the West Lothian question.
Administratively, England is something of an anomaly within the UK. Unlike the other three nations, it has no local parliament or government and its administrative affairs are dealt with by a combination of the UK government, the UK parliament and a number of England-specific quangos, such as English Heritage. There are calls from an increasing number for a devolved English Parliament and from others for the dissolution of the UK and an independent England.
The current Labour government favoured the establishment of regional administration, claiming that England was too large to be governed as a sub-state entity. A referendum on this issue in North East England on 4 November 2004 decisively rejected the proposal.
Some criticised the English regional proposals for not decentralising enough, saying that they amounted not to devolution, but to little more than local government reorganisation, with no real power being removed from central government. The English regions would not even have had the limited powers of the Welsh Assembly, much less the tax-varying and legislative powers of the Scottish Parliament. Rather, power was simply re-allocated within the region, with little new resource allocation and no real prospects of Assemblies being able to change the pattern of regional aid. Responsibility for regional transport was added to the proposals late in the process. This was perhaps crucial in the North East, where resentment at the Barnett Formula, which delivers greater regional aid to adjacent Scotland, was a significant impetus for the North East devolution campaign. There has also been a campaign for a Cornish assembly along Welsh lines by groups such as Mebyon Kernow, which recently collected 50,000 signatures in support.
Some eurosceptics believe that the establishment of English regions as administrative entities is designed to undermine the concept of English nationhood and more easily fit England into a European federal model.
Conventionally the national capital of England is London, although technically it would be more exact to call London the capital of "England and Wales" given England's lack of a distinctive political identity separate from the Principality. Winchester served as the country's first national capital until some time in the late 11th century after the Norman Conquest. The City of London became England's commercial capital, while the City of Westminster (where the Royal court was located) became the political capital. These roles have, broadly speaking, been maintained to the present day.
Main article: Subdivisions of England
Historically, the highest level of local government in England was the county. These divisions had emerged from a range of units of old, pre-unification England, whether they were Kingdoms, such as Essex and Sussex; Duchies, such as Yorkshire, Cornwall and Lancashire or simply tracts of land given to some noble, as is the case with Berkshire. Until 1867, they were subdivided into smaller divisions called hundreds.
These counties all still exist in, or near to, their original form as the traditional counties. In many places, however, they have been heavily modified or abolished outright as administrative counties. This came about due to a number of factors.
The fact that the counties were so small meant, and still means, that there was no regional government able to coordinate an overarching plan for the area. This was especially true in the metropolitan areas surrounding the cities, as the county lines were usually drawn up before the industrial revolution and the mass urbanisation of England.
The solution was the creation of large metropolitan counties centred on cities. These were later broken up, with several other counties, into unitary authorities, unifying the county and district/borough levels of government.
London is a special case, and is the one region which currently has a representative authority as well as a directly elected mayor. The 32 London boroughs and the Corporation of London remain the local form of government in the city.
Other than Greater London, the official regions are:
- See main article: List of towns in England
The largest cities in England are much debated but according to the urban area populations (continuous built up areas) these would be the 15 largest conurbations. (Population figures taken from 2001 census)
- Greater London (8,278,251)
- West Midlands (2,284,093)
- Greater Manchester (2,244,931)
- Leeds/Bradford (1,499,465)
- Tyneside (879,996)
- Liverpool (816,216)
- Nottingham (666,358)
- Sheffield (640,720)
- Bristol (551,066)
- Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton (461,181)
- Portsmouth (442,252)
- Leicester (441,213)
- Bournemouth/Poole (383,713)
- Reading (369,804)
- Teesside (365,323)
Main article: Economy of England
England is both the most populous and the most ethnically diverse nation in the United Kingdom with around 49 million inhabitants, of which roughly a tenth are from non-White ethnic groups. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, second only to the Netherlands.
This population is made up of, and descended from, immigrants who have arrived over millennia. The principal waves of migration have been in c. 600 BC (Celts), the Roman period (garrison soldiers from throughout the Empire), 350–550 (Angles, Saxons, Jutes), 800–900 (Vikings, Danes), 1066 (Normans), 1650–1750 (European refugees and Huguenots), 1840–1850 (Irish), 1880–1940 (Irish, Jews), 1950— (Irish, Caribbeans, Africans, South Asians), 1985— (citizens of European Community member states especially Ireland, East Europeans, Iranians, Kurds, refugees).
The general prosperity of England as the largest partner of the UK, has also made it a destination for economic migrants particularly from Ireland and Scotland. This segment of English homogeneous society continues to create a diverse and dynamic language that is widely used internationally. The other image of foreign ethnic components in England is still mostly seen as a legacy of the British Empire; especially the Commonwealth of Nations.
The simplest view is that an English person is someone who is from England and holds British nationality, regardless of his or her racial origin. However, inhabitants of England quite commonly refer to themselves as "British" rather than "English"; centuries of English dominance within the United Kingdom has created a situation where to be English is, as a linguist would put it, an "unmarked" state (i.e. a British person, institution, custom, city, etc. is assumed English unless specified otherwise). The English frequently include their neighbours in the general term "British" while the Scots and Welsh, proud of their separate identities, tend to be more forward about referring to themselves by one of those more specific terms. Although currently a part of England, a notable percentage of those living in Cornwall feel similarly, considering themselves Cornish first. One significant exception is in Northern Ireland, where the Unionist community tend to identify very strongly as "British" (Republicans living in the province are more likely to consider themselves "Irish"), and there is not a "Northern Ireland" or "Northern Irish" identity to the same extent as there is (e.g.) a Scottish one.
A person, therefore, using the term "English" to describe him or herself (regardless of personal history) may be going out of his or her way to do so; hence he or she may also be seen (rightly or wrongly, and not necessarily pejoratively) as nationalistic. While Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Cornish patriotism are widely exhibited, specifically English patriotism has often been viewed with suspicion, and most English people feel more comfortable identifying themselves with Britain as a whole. However, this may be to avoid being seen as bullies by their neighbours. The extent to which specifically English patriotism is linked to a right-wing xenophobic agenda has also generated discomfort. The appropriation of English symbols by racist far-right organisations such as the National Front made many people uncomfortable with expressions of Englishness. In recent years, English identity has recently been a topic of debate in the national press, with many English people trying to "reclaim" the term and the flag from the far-right. See English nationalism.
One notable exception to the above is in relation to sports, in particular Association football, Rugby football and to a lesser extent Cricket. Transient successes are often accompanied by a revival of the use of the "St George's Cross". While it has not yet replaced the "Union Flag" its use is on the increase.
Many English people who have spent a lot of time overseas fall into the habit of referring to themselves as "English". It is the most recognisable designation by speakers of many languages, especially where their own language uses a similar word. Even in other English-speaking countries, people are often perplexed by concepts of "British" or the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
All these distinctions are only possible because there is no "English citizenship" or legal definition of Englishness. Moreover, the hazy understanding many people have of the distinction between "England" and "Britain" compounds the confusion. If in doubt, refer to an "English" person as "British": this will always be correct. It may not be as precise as "English", but it will avoid offence in the event the person is actually from a different part of Britain.
Main article: Culture of England
- English literature
- List of national parks of England and Wales
- Food and Drink
- English folklore
- English art
- Music of England
As its name suggests, the English language, today spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world, originated as the language of England, where it remains the principal tongue today (although not officially designated as such). An Indo-European language in Anglo-Frisian branch of the Germanic family, it is closely related to Scots and Frisian. As the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged into England, "Old English" emerged; some of its literature and poetry has survived.
Used by aristocracy and commoners alike before the Norman Conquest (1066), English was displaced in cultured contexts under the new regime by the Norman French language of the new Anglo-French aristocracy. Its use was confined primarily to the lower social classes while official business was conducted in a mixture of Latin and French. Over the following centuries, however, English gradually came back into fashion among all classes and for all official business except certain traditional ceremonies. (Some survive to this day.) But Middle English, as it had by now become, showed many signs of French influence, both in vocabulary and spelling. During the Renaissance, many words were coined from Latin and Greek origins; and more recent years, Modern English has extended this custom, being always remarkable for its far-flung willingness to incorporate foreign-influenced words.
The law does not recognise any language as being official, but English is the only language used in England for general official business. The other national languages of the UK (Welsh, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic) are confined to their respective nations, and only Welsh is treated by law as an equal to English (and then only for organisations which do business in Wales).
The only non-Anglic native spoken language in England is the Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, which became extinct in the 19th century but has been revived and is spoken in various degrees of fluency by around 3,500 people. This has no official status (unlike Welsh) and is not required for official use, but is nonetheless supported by national and local government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Cornwall County Council has produced a draft strategy to develop these plans. There is, however, no programme as yet for public bodies to actively promote the language. Scots is spoken by some adjacent to the Anglo-Scottish Border.
Most deaf people within England speak British sign language (BSL), a sign language native to Britain. The British Deaf Association estimates that 70,000 people throughout the UK speak BSL as their first or preferred language, but does not give statistics specific to England. Like Cornish, BSL has no official status, but has been granted a degree of recognition by the government. The BBC broadcasts several of its programmes with BSL interpreters.
Different languages from around the world, especially from the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations, have been brought to England by immigrants. Many of these are widely spoken within ethnic minority communities, including Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Chinese and Vietnamese. These are often used by official bodies to communicate with the relevant sections of the community, particularly in big cities, but this occurs on an "as needed" basis rather than as the result of specific legislative ordinances.
Other languages have also traditionally been spoken by minority populations in England, including Romany.
Despite the relatively small size of the nation, there are a large number of distinct English regional accents. Those with particularly strong accents may not be easily understood elsewhere in the country. Use of foreign non-standard varieties of English [[such as Caribbean English) is also widespread.