English people

English people
Flag of England.svg
Total population
c. 80–100 million worldwide
Regions with significant populations
 United Kingdom 37.6 million in
 England and  Wales[1]
 United States50 milliona[2]
 Australia7.2 millionb[3]
 Canada6.6 millionc[4]
 South Africa1.6 milliond[5]
 New Zealand44,000–282,000[6]
Traditionally Anglicanism, but also non-conformists and dissenters (see History of the Church of England), as well as other Protestants; also Roman Catholics (see Catholic Emancipation); Islam (see Islam in England); Judaism and other faiths (see Religion in England). Almost 25% are non-religious.[7]
Related ethnic groups

a English American, b English Australian, c English Canadian, d British diaspora in Africa

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn (‘family of the Angles’). Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD.[8] England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

The English largely descend from two main historical population groups – the earlier Celtic Britons (or Brythons) and the Germanic tribes who settled in Britain following the withdrawal of the Romans: the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians.[9][10] Collectively known as the Anglo-Saxons, they founded what was to become the Kingdom of England (from the Old English Englaland) by the early 10th century, in response to the invasion and minor settlement of Danes beginning in the late 9th century. This was followed by the Norman Conquest and limited settlement of Anglo-Normans in England in the latter 11th century.[11][12][13][9][14] In the Acts of Union 1707, the Kingdom of England was succeeded by the Kingdom of Great Britain.[15] Over the years, English customs and identity have become fairly closely aligned with British customs and identity in general.

Today many English people have recent forebears from other parts of the United Kingdom, while some are also descended from more recent immigrants from other European countries and from the Commonwealth.[citation needed]

The English people are the source of the English language, the Westminster system, the common law system and numerous major sports such as cricket, football,[16] rugby union, rugby league and tennis. These and other English cultural characteristics have spread worldwide, in part as a result of the former British Empire.

English nationality

The concept of an 'English nation' (as opposed to a British one) has become increasingly popular after the devolution process in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland resulted in all four having semi-independent political and legal systems. Although England itself has no devolved government, the 1990s witnessed a rise in English self-consciousness.[17] This is linked to the expressions of national self-awareness of the other British nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which take their most solid form in the new devolved political arrangements within the United Kingdom – and the waning of a shared British national identity with the growing distance between the end of the British Empire and the present.[18][19][20]

Many recent immigrants to England have assumed a solely British identity, while others have developed dual or mixed identities.[21][22][23][24][25] Use of the word "English" to describe Britons from ethnic minorities in England is complicated by most non-white people in England identifying as British rather than English. In their 2004 Annual Population Survey, the Office for National Statistics compared the ethnic identities of British people with their perceived national identity. They found that while 58% of white people in England described their nationality as "English", the vast majority of non-white people called themselves "British".[26]

Relationship to Britishness

It is unclear how many British people consider themselves English. In the 2001 UK census, respondents were invited to state their ethnicity, but while there were tick boxes for 'Irish' and for 'Scottish', there were none for 'English', or 'Welsh', who were subsumed into the general heading 'White British'.[27][28] Following complaints about this, the 2011 census was changed to "allow respondents to record their English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Irish or other identity."[29] Another complication in defining the English is a common tendency for the words "English" and "British" to be used interchangeably, especially outside the UK. In his study of English identity, Krishan Kumar describes a common slip of the tongue in which people say "English, I mean British". He notes that this slip is normally made only by the English themselves and by foreigners: "Non-English members of the United Kingdom rarely say 'British' when they mean 'English'". Kumar suggests that although this blurring is a sign of England's dominant position with the UK, it is also "problematic for the English [...] when it comes to conceiving of their national identity. It tells of the difficulty that most English people have of distinguishing themselves, in a collective way, from the other inhabitants of the British Isles".[30]

In 1965, the historian A. J. P. Taylor wrote,

"When the Oxford History of England was launched a generation ago, "England" was still an all-embracing word. It meant indiscriminately England and Wales; Great Britain; the United Kingdom; and even the British Empire. Foreigners used it as the name of a Great Power and indeed continue to do so. Bonar Law, by origin a Scotch Canadian, was not ashamed to describe himself as "Prime Minister of England" [...] Now terms have become more rigorous. The use of "England" except for a geographic area brings protests, especially from the Scotch."[31]

However, although Taylor believed this blurring effect was dying out, in his book The Isles (1999), Norman Davies lists numerous examples in history books of "British" still being used to mean "English" and vice versa.[32]

In December 2010, Matthew Parris in The Spectator, analysing the use of "English" over "British", argued that English identity, rather than growing, had existed all along but has recently been unmasked from behind a veneer of Britishness.[33]