Welcome to Britlink
Britlink is a site about all aspects of being British, British History, the British living overseas and the British way of life.
Britishness is the state or quality of being British, or of embodying British characteristics,and is used to refer to that which binds and distinguishes the British people and forms the basis of their unity and identity, or else to explain expressions of British culture—such as habits, behaviours or symbols—that have a common, familiar or iconic quality readily identifiable with the United Kingdom. Dialogue about the legitimacy and authenticity of Britishness is intrinsically tied with power relations and politics; in terms of nationhood and belonging, expressing or recognising one’s Britishness provokes a range of responses and attitudes, such as advocacy, indifference or rejection.
Macphee and Poddar state that although the designation of the two differing terms, Britishness and Englishness, is not simple as they are invariably conflated, they are both tied into the identity of the British Empire and nation, since these last two are altering considerably as Englishness and Britishness do too. Thus the slippage between the two words can be seen as a play between these changing dynamics.
Britishness “sprung into political and academic prominence” in the late 20th century, but its origins lie with the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. Although Britishness was used to refer to Britons collectively as early as 1682, historian Linda Colley asserts that it was after the Acts of Union 1707 that the citizens of Great Britain began to assume a “layered” identity—to think of themselves as simultaneously British but also Scottish, English, and/or Welsh. In this formative period, Britishness was “closely bound up with Protestantism”. The Oxford English Dictionary Online dates the first known use of the term Britishness to refer to the state of being British to a June 1857 issue of Putnam’s Monthly Magazine.
Since the late 20th century, the exploration and proliferation of Britishness became directly associated with a desire to define, sustain or restore a homogeneous British identity or allegiance to Britain, prompting debate. For instance, the Life in the United Kingdom test—reported as a test of one’s Britishness—has been described as controversial. The United Kingdom Independence Party have asserted that Britishness is tied with inclusive civic nationalism, whereas the Commission for Racial Equality reported that, Scots, Welsh, Irish and ethnic minorities may feel quite divorced from Britishness because of white English dominance; Gwynfor Evans, Welsh nationalist politician, said that “Britishness is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish”. With regards to a proposed oath of allegiance for school leavers, historian David Starkey argued that it is impossible to teach Britishness because “a British nation doesn’t exist.”
The United Kingdom
The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another state: the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west.
The UK’s form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, and its capital city is London. The current British monarch—since 6 February 1952—is Queen Elizabeth II.
The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capital cities, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively.
Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are British Crown dependencies and the British Government is responsible for defence and international representation.
The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories which are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest by purchasing power parity. It was the world’s first industrialised country and the world’s foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The UK remains a great power with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally.
Its capital, London, is the largest city in the EU and one of the two most important global cities. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks from fourth to sixth (depending on the source) in the world.
The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor the European Economic Community (EEC) since 1973; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
British Overseas Territories
The British Overseas Territories (formerly known as a dependent territories or earlier as a crown colonies) are territories that are under the sovereignty and formal control of the United Kingdom, though not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Overseas territories should be distinguished from crown dependencies (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which have a different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom), and protectorates (which were not formally under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom).
Following the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the remaining British overseas possessions are mostly small island territories with small populations, the only territory of significant area being the uninhabited British Antarctic Territory. The reasons for these territories not achieving independence vary, and include:
lack of support for independence among the local population;
a small population size making the possibility of success as a sovereign state more difficult;
dependence on economic aid from the UK;
being uninhabited territories used for scientific or military purposes;
a lack of any economic or political justification for independence.
In 2002, the UK Parliament passed the British Overseas Territories Act 2002. This reclassified the UK’s dependent territories as overseas territories and, with the exception of those people solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus, restored full British citizenship to their inhabitants.
The Crown dependencies are self-governing possessions of the British Crown. They are distinct from on the one hand, the overseas territories of the United Kingdom, and on the other hand – the Commonwealth Realms.
As of 2014, three jurisdictions held this status: the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
Being independently administered jurisdictions, none forms part of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, or the European Union.
“The Crown” is defined differently in each Crown dependency. In Jersey, statements in the 21st century of the constitutional position by the Law Officers of the Crown define it as the “Crown in right of Jersey”, with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom.
Legislation of the Isle of Man defines the “Crown in right of the Isle of Man” as being separate from the “Crown in right of the United Kingdom”.
In Guernsey, legislation refers to the “Crown in right of the Bailiwick”, and the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that “The Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey” and that this comprises “the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, and the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council.” This constitutional concept is also worded as the “Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey”.
Although the Crown dependencies are British possessions of the Crown, and are not sovereign nations in their own right, the power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with their own respective legislative assemblies, with the assent of the Crown (Privy Council, or in the case of the Isle of Man in certain circumstances the Lieutenant-Governor).
In 2005, Jersey followed the Isle of Man and Guernsey in creating the role of Chief Minister to serve as the island’s head of government.
All three Crown dependencies are members of the British–Irish Council.
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power.
By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time, and covered more than 33,700,000 km2 (13,012,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. As a result, its political, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread.
At the peak of its power, it was often said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire” because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories.During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe, and in the process established large overseas empires.
Envious of the great wealth these empires bestowed, England, France and the Netherlands began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. A series of wars in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Netherlands and France left England (Britain, following the 1707 Act of Union with Scotland) the dominant colonial power in North America and India. The loss of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after a war of independence deprived Britain of some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Following the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815, Britain enjoyed a century of almost unchallenged dominance, and expanded its imperial holdings across the globe. Increasing degrees of autonomy were granted to its white settler colonies, some of which were reclassified as dominions.