English people

From Academic Kids

This article is about the English as an ethnic group. For information about residents or nationals of England, see demographics of England.

The English as an ethnic group originated in the lowlands of Great Britain and are descended primarily from the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians, with minor influences from the Celts, Jutes, Normans, and later Jews, Afro-Caribbeans, Indians and diverse other groups. The OED defines an English person as: one who is English by birth, descent or naturalisation. In this context the term "English" can describe people belonging to diverse races. Template:Ethnic group



Most English trace their heritage back to the Anglo-Saxons who between the 5th and 7th centuries, after the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, conquered most of Britain (although lack of documentation from the Dark Ages makes it impossible for any individual to prove such descent). The name of the area known as England derives from this incursion. At one time it was widely believed that the Anglo-Saxons supplanted the Celtic populations. Recent genetic studies disagree, suggesting the Anglo-Saxons established political and cultural dominance over the Celts and intermarried with them.

Others, notably the Cornish and the Cumbrians have noticeable connections to the Celtic Britons; attributed to this, some Cornish claim not to be English but Cornish. A further group of English have been influenced by Scandinavian culture, particularly in the north of England. This is most pronounced in York, formerly the Danish settlement of Jorvik. These groups had a noticeable impact on the English language, for example the modern meaning of the word dream is of Scandinavian origin. Additionally place names that include thwaite and borough are Scandinavian in origin.

The Anglo-Saxons established conquest kingdoms, commonly referred to as the Heptarchy. These were united in the early 9th century under the overlordship of Wessex, forming what would eventually become the modern nation state of England.

The Norman Conquest of 1066 brought Anglo-Saxon rule to an end, and began a dark period, culturally and socially for some inhabitants. The new Norman elite committed a pogrom against the rebellious Anglo-Danish population north of the Humber during the winter of 1069-70, which became known as the The Harrowing of the North.

The modern English nation has a mixed cultural heritage combining Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Scandinavian elements. During Britain's years as a major colonial power, people have moved from all over Britain's sphere of influence to England, leaving a small, but noticeable mark on English culture. Also, for most of its history as a recognisable entity England has had a significant Jewish population.


Contribution to humanity

The English have played a prominent role in the development of the arts and sciences. Prominent individuals have included the scientists Isaac Newton, Joseph John Thomson, Francis Crick, Charles Darwin and Howard Carter; the poet and playwright William Shakespeare, the composer Henry Purcell, and the explorer James Cook (for a complete list of famous English people see List of English people).

The English language is now the world's unofficial lingua franca, and the jury system (used now in most countries in the world) is an English innovation. English common law is also the foundation of legal systems throughout the English speaking countries of the world.


All English people traditionally speak the English language, a member of the West Germanic language family. The only other language traditionally spoken is Cornish, a Celtic language originating in Cornwall spoken by about 3500 people. More recently immigrants from all over the British Commonwealth have brought other languages to England which are used privately as a home language. Such languages include Bengali, Hindu, Hebrew, Arabic and Chinese.


Most English people of faith are affiliated to the Church of England or other Christian denominations such as Roman Catholicism and Methodism. Other religions which English people may be affiliated to are Judaism, and due to immigration from the Commonwealth, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.


English flag
English flag

The English flag is a red cross on a white background, commonly called the Cross of St George adopted after the crusades. Saint George, famed as a dragon-slayer, is also the patron saint of England. The three golden lions or leopards on a red background was the banner of the kings of England derived from their status as Duke of Normandy and is now used to represent the English national football team and the English national cricket team. The Tudor rose and the English oak are also English symbols. "God Save The Queen" is widely regarded as England's unofficial national anthem; however, other songs are sometimes used, including "Land of hope and glory" (used as England's anthem in the Commonwealth Games), "Jerusalem" and "I Vow to Thee, My Country."


With the Acts of Union in 1536, 1542, 1707 and 1800, England was joined with Scotland, Ireland, and Wales in the United Kingdom; and a new 'British' identity was conceived. The English, along with the other peoples of the British Isles found their old identities undermined somewhat in favour of a new British national identity. The 1990s saw the beginning of a gradual reclamation and reformation of English identity. For several decades nationalist movements had existed in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall but England had no counterpart. Partly in response to devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the rise in general of nationalism in the Celtic fringe many English people have been led to question what it is to be English and its relationship with being British. Some English nationalist parties have been created, their following however remains small.

External links

  • BBC Nations (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/state/nations/) Articles on England and the English
  • The British Isles (http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/britishisles/) Information on England
  • Mercator's Atlas (http://www.walkingtree.com/) Map of England ("Anglia") circa 1564.
  • Viking blood still flowing (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1689955.stm); BBC; 3 December, 2001.
  • English and Welsh are races apart (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/2076470.stm); BBC; 30 June, 2002.
  • English Democrats (http://englandsparty.com)
  • 1EuroAmericans.net (http://www.euroamericans.net/euroamericans.net/english%20census.htm) gives official statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census showing 24,515,138 persons with English ancestry. The greatest population in a single state was 2,521,355 in California, and the highest percentage was 29.0% in Utah.
  • 22001 Canadian Census (http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/highlight/ETO/Table1.cfm?Lang=E&T=501&GV=1&GID=0) gives 1,479,520 respondents stating their ancestry as English only.

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