Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

29 October 2009

Multi-cultural Britannia

As a kind of neat synthesis of and addendum to my previous three posts, relating to multi-culturalism and the BBC One Show’s failure to say ‘England’ when England is meant, I stumbled across this One Show article about ‘multicultural Roman Britain’.

The report, by black presenter Angellica Bell, focuses on the discovery in York of a fourth-century skull which, an expert explains, must have been that of a black-white mixed-race woman. And not a slave, either; but a wealthy person with a comfortable lifestyle – perhaps the wife of a Roman soldier stationed in the city.

But the bit that I find really hilarious is that the whole report is framed at the beginning by shots of Hadrian’s Wall: the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, and the original border between Caledonia (Scotland) and Roman Britannia. This makes it quite clear that when the report that follows refers to Roman ‘Britain’, it actually means what we – or some of us – now like to call England (and Wales): the territory that constituted the Roman province of Britannia. Later, the report refers to York as a vital northern fortress city for Roman ‘Britain’; but in fact, it was a frontier city only by virtue of the fact that the Britain of that time corresponds to the England of now.

From a single skull, the report extrapolates to a picture of a highly multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan Roman Britannia, which is then explicitly compared with the multi-cultural character of ‘Britain’s’ cities today. But the report has gone out of its way to indicate that the ‘territorial extent’ of that multi-cultural Britain – then as now – is actually England (and Wales). As much as to say that ‘”Britain” has always been multi-cultural, even from Roman times’, i.e. from before the Anglo-Saxon invasions that transformed it temporarily into an apparently mono-cultural and mono-ethnic ‘England’.

And so the ‘multi-cultural Britain’ that has replaced the distinct, homogeneous, national and cultural identity of England under New Labour is projected by the programme back to pre-English times, making it appear somehow more authentic and historically rooted than the English tribe itself – now seen as just one of the many ethnic groups that have migrated to ‘Britain’ over the centuries and continue to do so. And yet what is referenced by the term ‘multi-cultural Britain’ is England only.

No wonder the One Show can’t seem to be able to say ‘England’ in relation to present-day English matters: for them, it seems, the country has only ever been ‘Britain’.



  1. What annoys me is the shaky history that refers to England before it became England and in our part of the world was Northumbria. Having said all that, we south of a fuzzy, diagonal Berwick to Carlisle line, keeping over to the right are basically going to acknowledge ourselves as English.

    Comment by jameshigham — 29 October 2009 @ 5.06 pm | Reply

  2. Isn’t it about time we looked a little more closely at the history of this great nation, instead of swallowing the state sponsored rubbish which doesn’t make sense. If we have a King Arthur who fights the Romans and also the Saxons then we have a King who lived at least 250 years and yet we are told he was the same man. This single piece of evidence, to me, shows that we must look afresh at our history based on copious amounts of evidence still held in various libraries, carved into stones, littering the fields etc. etc. which shows a completely different picture. A picture we would be even more proud of if it was shown us.

    In AD 1714 the English imported the German Hanoverian family of the elector of Hanover as their puppet kings and Queens. From this moment onwards everything historical had to be both politically and religiously redesigned into a suitably acceptable form to promote the new Germanism in England in particular and Britain as a whole.

    See for more info

    Comment by stuartcharlesworth — 29 October 2009 @ 11.28 pm | Reply

  3. the kingdom of Gododdin actually.

    The first ever recorded welsh poetry was written by someone born in what we now call Scotland whilst at war defending this Celtic kingdom near Catraeth/Catterick in what we now know as Northumbria in england

    Comment by paul — 30 October 2009 @ 12.13 am | Reply

  4. The English were still in northern Germany and Denmark (Angeln, Lower Saxony and Jutland) when the Romans were here in Prydain. The German kingdom of Northumbria didn’t exist as yet, the land was still native British. (Note I use British in the correct sense, not the Yookay Nationalist version)

    Comment by nativebriton — 1 November 2009 @ 6.05 am | Reply

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