|Royal motto: Dieu et mon droit (God and my right)|
|Official languages||None but English is de facto.|
|Ranked 1st UK
- Total (2001)
|Ranked 1st UK
|Religion||Church of England
(Established Church): 31,500,000
Roman Catholic: 5,000,000
|Unification||9th century by
Egbert of Wessex
|Currency||Pound Sterling (£) (GBP)|
|Anthems||De facto(as part of the UK):
God Save the Queen
Land of Hope and Glory
Table of contents
Naming and symbols"England" is often used to refer to the United Kingdom, Great Britain, the island of Britain or indeed the British Isles. This is a misuse of the term and is not only incorrect but can cause offence to people from other parts of the UK. For example, someone from Scotland is also British but not English.
The name "England" is derived from "Engla-lond" or "land of the Angles". Other terms for England include "Blighty", from the Hindustani "bila yati" meaning "foreign"; "this Green and Pleasant Land", from William Blake's hymn Jerusalem. "Albion" was used by writers such as Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy in the 1st century, in reference to the white (Latin: "alba") cliffs of Dover.
There is an interesting divergence in the naming of England between the Celtic nations of northwestern Europe and the rest of Europe. Virtually every continental European country uses a variant of "England": hence "Angleterre" (French), "Anglia" (Hungarian), "Inghilterra" (Italian), "Engleska" (Serbian) and so on. In contrast, the Celtic languages use quite different names: "Bro-Saoz" (Breton), "Pow Sows" (Cornish) and "Sasana" (Irish). The explanation lies in the tribal settlement of England in the Dark Ages and the different contacts between various peoples. The Celts were driven westwards by the invasion of the Saxons; hence the Celtic names for England are variants on "land of the Saxons". By contrast, the Angles' geographic position along the south-eastern coast of England (i.e. closest to mainland Europe) gave them a higher international profile as traders than the inland-dwelling Saxons. To a foreign visitor visiting south-eastern England, therefore, it would indeed have appeared to have been the "land of the Angles". (See Wiktionary for a list of non-English names for England.)
The English flag is a thin red cross on a white field. This is commonly known as St. George's cross, the symbol of the patron saint of England, Saint George. The red cross acted as a symbol for Crusaders in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD and was subsequently used as a national flag until 1707, when the Union Flag which English and Scottish ships had used at sea since 1606 was adopted for all purposes in Great Britain. At that time, the Republic of Genoa used it also. The rose is widely-recognised as the national flower of England and is used in a variety of contexts, such as the badge of the English Rugby Union team. The Three Lions badge performs a similar role for the English national football (soccer) team, having its basis in the royal arms first used by Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in the late twelfth century.
England does not have an official anthem of its own but Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory are both widely regarded - unofficially - as English national hymns (although the latter more properly refers to Great Britain, not just England). At sporting events, God Save The Queen is usually played for the England football team (despite being the national anthem of the UK) while Land of Hope and Glory has been used as the English anthem at the Commonwealth Games (where the four British nations compete independently).
HistoryMain article: History of England
The country of England (as distinct from the states and provinces which had occupied the same territory at earlier times) formed through the gradual merging of the Angle, Saxon and Jute kingdoms during the 7th to 9th centuries. Egbert, King of Wessex (d. 839) is often regarded as the first king of all England, though his official title was Bretwalda (literally, "Overlord of Britain") and he was technically a "first among equals" with other English rulers. The title "King of England" emerged two generations later with Alfred the Great (ruled 871–899)
Some school histories of England begin with the accession of William the Conqueror in 1066. Although William re-organised (and largely replaced) the English aristocracy, it cannot truly be said that he "founded" or "unified" the country. Much of the existing Anglo-Saxon infrastructure survived William's conquest, and the Norman immigrants formed only a minority (albeit a dominant minority) in English society.
More recent school histories begin with the geographical area which would one day become England, and therefore refer first to the various waves of Celtic and Gallic invaders, the invasions of Julius Caesar and later Roman expeditions. These studies of the history of the place itself, before it had gained the name "England" help us to understand the later developments of England as a nation.
PoliticsMain article: Politics of England
England, as a significant political entity, ceased to exist with the Act of Union with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. All of Great Britain has been ruled by the government of the United Kingdom between that date and 1999, when the first elections to the newly created Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales left England as the only nation in the Union with no exclusive representative body.
At present England has no devolved assembly or parliament such as exist in the other three nations of the United Kingdom. As all legislation for England is passed by Parliament at Westminster there are some complaints about the ability of, Northern Irish, Welsh, and Scottish Members of Parliament to "interfere" in purely English affairs when English MPs have no similar right of "interference". This apparent injustice is highlighted by both English and Scottish politicians, often those opposed to devolution has become popularly known as the West Lothian question.
There are calls by some for an English Parliament but the current Labour government favours the establishment of regional governments, claiming that England is too large to be governed as a sub-state entity. In some regions, notably the south-west and south-east there is little interest, but in the north of England there is growing support. Referenda will take place on this issue, with three northern regions due to vote in October 2004. Consideration has still to be given to what powers regions would be granted, and what impact this may have on the powers of counties or central government.
Unlike the other nations of the Kingdom, there is very little call for independence of England from the UK. This is overwhelmingly due to its dominance in the Union. Those groups that do campaign for such a thing tend to be right-wing organisations with very little popular support.
Since the promulgation of the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan and the Act of Union 1536 with Wales, England has shared a legal identity with Wales as the joint entity of England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland retain separate legal systems and identities.
SubdivisionsMain 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 co-ordinate 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 thirty-two London boroughs remain the local form of government in the city.
Other than Greater London, the official Regions are:
- North East England
- North West England
- Yorkshire and the Humber
- West Midlands
- East Midlands
- East of England
- South West England
- South East England
GeographyMain article: Geography of England
England comprises most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain, plus offshore islands of which the largest is the Isle of Wight. It is bordered to the north by Scotland and to the west by Wales.
Most of England consists of rolling hills, but it is more mountainous in the north. The dividing line between terrain types is usually indicated by the Tees-Exe line. There is also an area of flat, low-lying marshland in the east, much of which has been drained for agricultural use.
- (Kingston upon) Hull
- Newcastle (upon Tyne)
EconomyMain article: Economy of England
DemographicsMain article: Demographics 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.
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), 1880–1940 (Jews), 1950–1985 (Caribbeans, Africans, South Asians), 1985— (citizens of European Community member states, East Europeans, Kurds, refugees).
The general prosperity of England has also made it a destination for economic migrants particularly from Ireland and Scotland. This diverse ethnic mix continues to create a diverse and dynamic language that is widely used internationally.
Generally, an English person is someone who lives in England and holds British nationality, regardless of their racial origin. However, some people (including many south Asians and whites) use the label as only referring to the Britons of England: those people of indigenous, or "Anglo-Saxon" origin – preferring to instead use "British" as a racially neutral label. However a Scottish or Welsh Briton would be excluded from this definition. Others would refer to someone born in England (regardless of ethnic origin) as English, but not someone who obtained British citizenship during their lifetime and lives in England.
These distinctions are only possible because there is no 'English Citizenship' or legal definition of Englishness. Also many people make a very hazy distinction between "England" and "Britain" and this can aid confusion.
See also Population of England – historical population estimates
CultureMain article: Culture of England
- English literature
- Sir Thomas Browne
- English national football team, English Football League teams (Soccer)
- List of national parks of England and Wales
- Food and Drink
England is unusual in having no designated official language. The original Germanic Anglo-Saxon language, used by aristocracy and commoners alike, was displaced during the Middle Ages by the Norman French language of the new Anglo-French aristocracy. The use of Middle English was confined primarily to the lower social classes while official business was conducted in a mixture of Latin and French. Over the following centuries, the modern, French-influenced dialect of English gradually supplanted Latin and French for all but certain ceremonial purposes (the latter is still used in a few cases, for instance the giving of Royal Assent to legislation).
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 Scots Gaelic) are confined to their respective countries, and only Welsh is treated by law as an equal to English (and then only for organisations which do business on both sides of the Anglo-Welsh border or in Wales itself).
The only native language in England other than English is the nearly extinct Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall 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.
Different languages from around the world, expecially 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.
- English law
- List of monarchs of England - Kings of England family tree
- List of English people
- Angeln (region in northern Germany)
- UK topics
- List of British postal codes
- Education in England