Monday, 7 November 2011
In Search of England
Many history books have something to teach us about English Politics. This is one example:- Michael Wood, In Search of England, 1999. Here is a significant extract which even if not entirely accepted as gospel helps to frame the debate.
"The modern English state was not created in one go. It is a product of a long – and continuing – process, but its roots lie in the Anglo-Saxon period, just as the Victorians thought. But from the beginning, it was not about race, or blood, as some Victorian racial theorists liked to say. It was rather about acceptance of common language and authority, about ‘group feeling’, about allegiance to the state and its way of doing things. That’s the core of the English story.
In conclusion, what we can say is this. The Anglo Saxons created England; the Normans and their successors attempted to create Great Britain, not succeeding half so well, despite their long attempts to dominate the cultures and societies of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. By the late tenth century, the rulers of the English had already come to a modus Vivendi with their Celtic neighbours: marking the limits of England almost exactly as it is today – that shape of England which Tom Paulin could not visualize. It was the Normans who tried to subdue the whole island, and their failure has finally been acknowledged in the late twentieth century.
England, on the other hand, is the creation of the Old English. It is something real to go back to, unlike so many modern countries whose attempts to build such allegiances have had to be fabricated. This is not to say that it doesn’t need reform now; not least the system of democracy itself – for who now would claim the English are better off than, say, the Germans? But it has a long and distinguished pedigree, which, contrary to the modern critiques, is more than the product of history than myth. It goes back to Gregory the Great, to Bede, and the Old English and Norman lawmakers, and for a country on a small island off the shores of Europe, its practical achievements in history have been considerable.
At root was a grand idea – the sense of a chosen people – but also something very practical: a workable conception of society, of order and of mutual obligations. The latter is still in place and still hardworking; and even the former has taken a long time to fade away."
What do you think of that?