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The culture of England refers to the idiosyncratic cultural norms of England and the English people. Because of England's dominant position within the United Kingdom in terms of population, English culture is often difficult to differentiate from the culture of the United Kingdom as a whole. However, there are some cultural practices that are associated specifically with England.

Contents

Architecture and gardens

Chatsworth House, a famous example of an English country house surrounded by an English garden

The Neolithic peoples of what would become England constructed many impressive stone circles and earthworks; of these, the largest and most famous is Stonehenge, believed by many English people and foreigners alike to hold an iconic place in the landscape of England. Specifically English architecture begins with the architecture of the Anglo-Saxons; at least fifty surviving English churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. All except one timber church are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of reused Roman work. The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings ranges from Coptic-influenced architecture in the early period; Early Christian basilica influenced architecture; to, in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular-headed openings. Almost no secular work remains above ground.

Other buildings such as cathedrals and parish churches are associated with a sense of traditional Englishness, as is often the palatial 'stately home'. Many people are interested in the English country house and the rural lifestyle, as evidenced by visits to properties managed by English Heritage and the National Trust.

Landscape gardening as developed by Capability Brown set an international trend for the English garden. Gardening, and visiting gardens, are regarded as typically English pursuits, fuelled somewhat by the perception of England as a nation of eccentric amateurs and autodidacts.

Art

The Hay Wain by John Constable is considered an archetypal English painting

English art was dominated by imported artists throughout much of the Renaissance, but in the eighteenth century a native tradition became much admired. It is often considered to be typified by landscape painting, such as the work of J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. Portraitists like Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth are also significant. Hogarth also developed a distinctive style of satirical painting.

Cuisine

Since the early modern era, the food of England has historically been characterised by its simplicity of approach, honesty of flavour, and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce. This has resulted in a traditional cuisine which tended to veer from strong flavours, such as garlic, and an avoidance of complex sauces which were commonly associated with Catholic Continental political affiliations[1] Traditional meals have ancient origins, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, and freshwater and saltwater fish. The 14th century English cookbook, the Forme of Cury, contains recipes for these, and dates from the royal court of Richard II.

A full English breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns, and half a tomato

Modern English cuisine is difficult to differentiate from British cuisine as a whole. However, there are some forms of cuisine considered distinctively English. The full English breakfast is a variant of the traditional British fried breakfast. The normal ingredients of a traditional full English breakfast are bacon, eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast, and sausages, usually served with a mug of tea. Black pudding is added in some regions as well as fried leftover mashed potatoes (called potato cakes).

Tea and beer are typical and rather iconic drinks in England, particularly the former. Cider is produced in the West Country, and the south of England has seen the reintroduction of vineyards producing high quality white wine on a comparatively small scale.

Roast beef is a food traditionally associated with the English; the link was made famous by Henry Fielding's patriotic ballad "The Roast Beef of Old England", and William Hogarth's painting of the same name. Indeed, since the 1700s the phrase "les rosbifs" has been a popular French nickname for the English.[2]

England produces hundreds of regional cheeses, including:

Other dishes invented in or distinctive to England include:

Folklore

Morris dancing is one of the more visible English folk traditions, with many differing regional variations.

English folklore is the folk tradition that has evolved in England over the centuries. England abounds with folklore, in all forms, from such obvious manifestations as semi-historical Robin Hood tales, to contemporary urban myths and facets of cryptozoology such as the Beast of Bodmin Moor. The famous Arthurian legends may not have originated in England, but variants of these tales are associated with locations in England, such as Glastonbury and Tintagel.

Examples of surviving English folk traditions include the Morris dance and related practices such as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance and the Mummers Plays. In many, usually rural places, people still gather for May Day festivals on the first of May to celebrate the beginning of summer. This traditionally involves local children skipping around a maypole - a large pole erected on the village green (historically a tree would have been specially cut down) - each carrying a coloured ribbon, resulting in a multi-coloured plaited pattern. The festival traditionally features Morris dancing and various festivities, culminating in the crowning of a 'May Queen'. Many regional variations of the festivals exist; the oldest still practiced today is the "'Obby 'Oss festival of Padstow, which dates back to the 14th century.

The utopian vision of a traditional England is sometimes referred to as Merry England.

Law

English law is the legal system of England and Wales.[2]. Due to the British Empire, it has been exported across the world: it is the basis of common law[3] jurisprudence of most Commonwealth countries, and English law prior to the American revolution is still part of the law of the United States, except in Louisiana, and provides the basis for many American legal traditions and policies, though it has no superseding jurisdiction.

Literature

William Hogarth's depiction of a scene from Shakespeare's The Tempest is an example of how English literature influenced English painting in the 18th century

English literature begins with Anglo-Saxon literature, which was written in Old English. For many years, Latin and French were the preferred literary languages of England, but in the medieval period there was a flourishing of literature in Middle English; Geoffrey Chaucer is the most famous writer of this period. The Elizabethan era is sometimes described as the golden age of English literature, as numerous great poets were writing in English, and the Elizabethan theatre produced William Shakespeare, often considered the English national poet.

Due to the expansion of English into a world language during the British Empire, literature is now written in English across the world. Writers often associated with England or for expressing Englishness include Shakespeare (who produced two tetralogies of history plays about the English kings), Jane Austen, Arnold Bennett, and Rupert Brooke (whose poem "Grantchester" is often considered quintessentially English). Other writers are associated with specific regions of England; these include Charles Dickens (London), Thomas Hardy (Wessex), A. E. Housman (Shropshire), and the Lake Poets (the Lake District). In the lighter vein, Agatha Christie's mystery novels are outsold only by Shakespeare and The Bible.

Music

England has a long and rich musical history. The United Kingdom has, like most European countries, undergone a roots revival in the last half of the 20th century. English music has been an instrumental and leading part of this phenomenon, which peaked at the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s.

The achievements of the Anglican choral tradition following on from 16th century composers such as Thomas Tallis, John Taverner and William Byrd have tended to overshadow instrumental composition. The semi-operatic innovations of Henry Purcell did not lead to a native operatic tradition, but George Frederick Handel found important royal patrons and enthusiastic public support in England. The rapturous receptions afforded by audiences to visiting musical celebrities such as Haydn often contrasted with the lack of recognition for home-grown talent. However, the emergence of figures such as Edward Elgar and Arthur Sullivan in the 19th century showed a new vitality in English music. In the 20th century, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett emerged as internationally-recognised opera composers, and Ralph Vaughan Williams and others collected English folk tunes and adapted them to the concert hall. Cecil Sharp was a leading figure in the English folk revival.

Finally, a new trend emerged out of Liverpool in 1962. The Beatles became the most popular musicians of their time, and in the composing duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, popularized the concept of the self-contained music act. Before the Beatles, very few popular singers composed the tunes they performed. The "Fab Four" opened the doors for other English acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Who, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd to the globe.

Some of England's leading contemporary artists include Elton John, George Michael, Blur, The Spice Girls, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, Robbie Williams, Oasis, Radiohead, David Bowie, Coldplay and Muse.

Philosophy

English philosophers include Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas More, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell.

Religion

St Paul's Cathedral, seat of the Anglican Bishop of London.

In the 2001 Census, a little over 37 million people in England and Wales professed themselves to be Christian. Since the English Reformation of the 16th century, when England became independent from Rome, English Christians have predominantly been members of the Church of England (a branch of the Anglican Communion), a form of Christianity that is both reformed and Catholic. The Book of Common Prayer is the foundational prayer book of the Church of England, replacing the various Latin rites of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of England functions as the established church in England. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales trace their formal history from the 597 Augustinian mission to the English. Today, most English people practising organised religion are, at least nominally, affiliated to the Church of England. Other significant Christian denominations are Roman Catholicism and Methodism (itself originally a movement within the Anglican Church). Churches that originated in England include the Methodist church, the Quakers and the Salvation Army.

Jewish immigration since the 17th century means that there is an integrated Jewish English population, mainly in urban areas. 252,000 Jews were recorded in England & Wales in the 2001 Census; however this represents a decline of about 50% over the previous 50 years, caused by emigration and intermarriage. Immigration to Britain from India and Pakistan since the 1950s means that a large number of people living in England practise Islam (818,000), Hinduism (467,000), or Sikhism (301,000); however, the census shows that adherents to these religions are more likely to regard themselves as British rather than English.[4] The 2001 census also revealed that about seven million people, or 15% of English people, claim no religion. [5]

Language

Countries where English has official status or is widely spoken.

English people traditionally speak the English language, a member of the West Germanic language family. The modern English language evolved from Old English, with lexical influence from Norman-French, Latin, and Old Norse. Cornish, a Celtic language originating in Cornwall, is currently spoken by about 3,500 people. Historically, another Brythonic Celtic language, Cumbric, was spoken in Cumbria in North West England, but it died out in the 11th century although traces of it can still be found in the Cumbrian dialect. Because of the 19th century geopolitical dominance of the British Empire and the post-World War II hegemony of the United States, English has become the international language of business, science, communications, aviation, and diplomacy.

Science

The English have played a significant role in the development of the sciences. Prominent individuals have included Isaac Newton, Francis Crick, Abraham Darby, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Joseph Swan and Frank Whittle.

Sport and leisure

Celebrations at Trafalgar Square after England's 2003 World Cup victory.

There are many sports which have been codified by the English, and then spread worldwide, including badminton, cricket, croquet, football, field hockey, lawn tennis, rugby league, rugby union, table tennis and thoroughbred horse racing. Association football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league are considered to be the national sports of England.

England, and the other countries of the United Kingdom, compete as a separate nations in some international sporting events, especially in football, cricket and rugby union. The England cricket team actually represents England and Wales[6]. However, in the Olympic Games, England competes as part of the Great Britain team. Supporters are nowadays more likely to carry the Cross of Saint George flag whereas twenty years ago the British Union Flag would have been the more prominent. In an article in the Daily Mirror on 17 September 2005, Billy Bragg said "Watching the crowd in Trafalgar Square celebrating The Ashes win, I couldn't help but be amazed at how quickly the flag of St. George has replaced the Union Flag in the affections of England fans. A generation ago, England games looked a lot like Last Night of the Proms, with the red, white and blue firmly to the fore. Now, it seems, the English have begun to remember who they are."[7].

Football maintains a consistent popularity across the country and is often indicative of trends across wider culture in England, such as in clothing and music. The increase in hooliganism amongst football fans in the 1970s and 1980s can in part be attributed to a parallel rise in unemployment. As England, and the United Kingdom as a whole, returned to a more affluent and stable financial position in the late 1990s, violent football culture was transformed into a culture where families were welcome, and nationalism lost its aggressive edge.

Different sports directly represent the different social classes within England. Rugby league, for instance, was traditionally associated with the old mill towns of north-west England, whereas cricket and rugby union have their origins in the private schools of the 18th and 19th centuries respectively.

However, since the English Rugby World Cup victory in 2003, the sport has seen a revival in widespread popularity across the class system. Likewise, after the Ashes victory of 2005, cricket has regained much of the popularity it had lost throughout the 1990s.

Tennis is also one of England's major sports. One of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis, Wimbledon, is held in England.

Symbols

Saint George's Cross, the English flag.
English coat-of-arms

The English flag is a red cross on a white background, commonly called the Cross of Saint George. It was adopted after the Crusades. Saint George, later famed as a dragon-slayer, is also the patron saint of England. The three golden lions 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, though in blue rather than gold. The English oak and the Tudor rose are also English symbols, the latter of which is (although more modernised) used by the England national rugby union team.

England has no official anthem; however, the United Kingdom's "God Save the Queen" is currently used. Other songs are sometimes used, including "Land of Hope and Glory" (used as England's anthem in the Commonwealth Games), "Jerusalem", "Rule Britannia", and "I Vow to Thee, My Country". Moves by certain groups are encouraging adoption of an official English anthem following similar occurrences in Scotland and Wales[8][9].

References

See also

External links

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