The British Character

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by AndyPipkin, Jan 2, 2009.

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  1. Hmmm... it's a very selective article presenting a romantic view of the past. For example, in the C16th French & Italian ambassadors frequently reported on the violence, sexual lust & proclivity for hard drinking of the English of all classes; contrasting markedly with the perceived coolness/ restraint of their own nationalities. A nice reversal of later stereotypes!

    C17th England, & Scotland, Wales & Ireland, were rent asunder by extremely bloody & vicious civil/ revolutionary wars - mass murder of civilians was widespread (not just in Ireland - cf sieges of Cardiff & Bristol), & rape/ pillage very frequent. Just a great pity, IMO, that after so much grief & mayhem, and having murdered the King, they couldn't make the republican experiment stick, but that's another matter...

    C18th - Hogarth/ Gin Lane/ The Rake's Progress etc... all had more than a little basis in reality. And what about The Gordon Riots? A prime example of an anti Catholic pogrom - George Rude & other leftists may assert otherwise, but as demonstrated pretty conclusively by my pal Colin Haydon in his Oxford doctoral thesis ("The Mainstream Of English Anti-Catholicism...", 1985) the riots were another episode in a long history of English mob violence against feared minorities.

    C19th Britain was also pretty violent - witness the generally well founded fear of the railway navvies. Many "respectable" households kept firearms for precisely this reason. 1888 - The Year of The Ripper: over 200 homicides in Whitechapel alone; the "Ripper" killings only stood out because they were one of the earliest documented examples of serial killing, & and public interest was stoked by the then emerging popular press - forerunners of the tabloids.

    Late C19th studies by Rowntree & many others indicate clearly that violence - domestic & public - was a commonplace feature of life for the poorest members of British society. Early C20th treatment meted out to Suffragettes, not just in prison, but on the streets where gangs of men commonly administered beatings whilst amused coppers stood by, are hardly indicative of the restrained, good humoured sense of irony & innate decency Dalrymple believes to have been the norm in British soc in the not too distant paste.

    Little serious violence at football matches until the 1970s? Don't make me laugh - the Reading Chronicle, for example, documents extensively the public order problems that were commonplace during the 1920s; gangs of rival supporters fighting with razors, bike chains, ballbearing filled socks etc.. Can't imagine it was much different elsewhere - if this went on in Reading then what must it have been like in Glasgow or Manchester, or in many parts of London?! My grandfather was a copper in Gloucester in the 1930s, and to his dying day regaled all & sundry with tales of the "wars" between "The Razor Gangs" that enlivened his working life, & he had plenty of photographic evidence, old notebooks, court reports from local press etc to substantiate his recollections.

    Truth is Dalrymple & others are living in fantasy land when imagining there was some golden age of the "British character". The Victorians created a cult of "The English(sic) Gentleman", & perpetuated it via the Public Schools and through Imperial Administration. But let's not forget, The Empire was hardly held together by daisy chains! It's probably true that the collective experiences of two world wars, plus the impact of the great Depression, and the creation of the Welfare State, did produce an era of relative social coherence during the middle & later parts of the C20th, but this was an abnormal state of affairs brought about by an unusual combination of circumstances. As the Post 1945 "Consensus" - political, social, cultural - broke down from the late 1970s/ 1980s onwards it was inevitable that aspects of this would end too.

    "Fings Ain't Wot They Used To Be!" - true, but I'd still rather be living in Britain today than at any earlier time in our history.
  2. Or as the Old Duke is reputed to have said
    'They do scare me.'
  3. What a load of b@llocks. This applies to every generation when it gets old - they just turn into pessimisic grumpy barstewards.

    "The youth of today love luxury; they have bad manners and contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Youth are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up food at the table, and tyrannize their teachers." Socrates.
  4. I think someone has been watching too many Noel Coward films. What a lot of tripe, this comes from an american, the nation with one of the world's biggest consumers of illegal narcotics.
  5. I would suggest a peek at Pont, the Punch cartoonist, if you can find a copy, other than that, we seem to do the right thing when push comes to shove, even if we have to borrow money from the septics. But bless, WW 2 the ONLY nation to declare war on the Germans. I suspect we'd do it again.
  6. Only if we really had too. It is much more British and far more satisfying to declare war on the French.
  7. Dalrymple speaks much sense, having read his "our culture" book when I was about 17.

    I agree with the erudition espoused by Wessex_Man above but would urge him to consider his selectively derived examples as untypical, one-off's. It wasn't like all suffragettes were beaten by men in the streets and coppers was it?
  8. 'Truculent'
  10. Wessex Man

    I suggest you read of state violence against the public, bread riots put down by the militia, public hanging for the slightest of offences, the theft of common land by the aristocracy etc etc.

    Oops, you posted before I finished - I concur with much of that post.
  11. Wessex_Man,

    But it is a total different breed of criminal to today. The careful, medically perculiar murders of Ripper and such were'nt quote the same as samuri-yielding teenagers on street corners today.

    Of course Britain was an austere place to be in days of old, but there were social norms, customs, morality blah blah that is lost in today's commercial, greedy society of self-indulgance and Jack, Alright, Im.

    In the days you speak ot murder, theft were acts of survival or sexual hostility rather than downright malice and aggression. Course murder is aggression, but my point is, murder, theft and violent crime today is down to the re-socialisation and re-ordering of our once-orderly society, i.e. a lack of boundaries.
  12. State violence against the public. would be British troops having to use the bayonet in Birmingham during the General Strike, my Gran remembered seeing the strikers being carted off battered and stabbed, yet it didnt make the papers. (early D Notice)?

    She also being a Cornish Lass, remembered being told not to go to St Ives (this being about 1910) due to the violence at night. If St Ives was violent feck knows what London or Manchester was like!!!
  13. Dalrymple speaks (as always) a great deal of sense. What he has not written about here is the domestic development of a political line of business which works towards actively changing - not merely influencing - the culture and character of the voting masses, in order to boost the fortunes of the governing party. This is, of course, an integral part of the New Labour Project's philosophy.