Further Lessons / Homework / Study on Englishness and Britishness

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(G) For homework or extension work it's worthwhile taking a look at the set I (Stuart Butler) performed with Billy Bragg at a St. George’s Day event in 2003.

This was in association with Philosophy Football and was a part of their on-going campaign to reclaim the flags from the racists. My brief was to show how the meanings of the Cross of St. George and the Union Jack had shifted over the last century or so.

I did this through looking at my own family - my grandfather, born 1892, a survivor of The Great War whose favourite poem was Rupert Brooke’s “1914” (The Soldier). This is an excellent poem to use.

I then looked at my mother’s generation - she was born on July 14th 1915 - Bastille Day. She was named Nancy Mary Lorraine “in honour of our gallant French allies” and Edward Thomas wrote “For These” on that day when he enlisted - a list of all the reasons why he felt compelled to fight for England. This is another apposite piece.

The next 2 poems I read were by me and looked at my generation’s experiences (born 1951), and those of my parents in World War Two, together with the attitudes of my teenage daughters. My poems show how I often felt uncomfortable with the Cross of St. George because I felt it symbolised “White Van Man”– but at the same time, I knew the Cross was also part of me. The poems do not show any thinking about how the logo might be offensive to Muslim opinion, however. If I wrote the poem “St. George” again, I am sure that I would include some reference to this.

Anyway, please look at www.footballpoets.org and click on the Kick Racism Out Of Football logo, top right. Then find the following poem “St. George” (Nov 11th); also find “Football Time” in my area and “Blake at Number 7”. [DJC add direct links here]

Students may also be interested in looking at the lesson plans for this site - click on “Butler’s Bench” and you will find ideas for using the Kick Racism Out Of Football award winning area. The lesson plans are also available on this site.


An ideal time for this test might be KS4 - it could be set as a research mini-project for homework with discussion in class. The vast majority of KS4 students study no English/British history - so this would be an excellent time for this activity. Difficult extension questions occur in the test - the test could be differentially set.

Construct a spider diagram on why you are proud to be English/British/Other - you choose how you wish to describe yourself. Put that description in the central box of your diagram.

(I) Now have a look at “We are Britain” - Poems by Benjamin Zephania; photographs by Prodeepta Das ISBN 0-7112-1902-8

You could contribute to a class anthology of poems and pictures or a collage called “We are Gloucestershire”.


We all know there’s so many schools of thought
That deny that words have any exact meaning,
But I can’t forget Doctor Johnson,
Who on receiving
A lecture from Boswell on the non-existence of matter,
Bruised his fat foot by making it fatter,
Through kicking a stone and howling with pain,
And shouting in anguish, again and again,
Thus proving to Boswell, the aforementioned latter,
The totally true existence of matter.
But what’s this got to do with racism
And all the chitter chatter
About the meaning of words?
Well it’s not so absurd
When we think about the words
That word “racism” deserves,
Because it comes from prejudiced benighted ignorance,
And confused xenophobic belligerence,
Brainwashed, fearful, indoctrinated minds,
Imperialism and fascism and things of that kind,
Bigotry, chauvinism, discrimination, intolerance,
Preconceived stereotypes and narrow minded inference,
A ridiculous sense of assumed superiority,
A linguistic separation from actual reality,
And the findings of science and also genetics,
For when you look at the biological statistics,
Out of 30,000 genes, there are only six
That affect our skin colour’s individual mix,
There is no trace of such a thing as race,
The only race you find
Is in the imagination of a mind,
Not in truth, in fact or actuality,
It’s a paranoid, delusional stupidity.
So, when you tell a racist that they are
Prejudiced, bigoted, paranoid and ignorant,
Frightened, confused, hypocritical, intolerant,
Narrow minded, mad, bad and deluded,
A dude, I conclude who is truly occluded,
Could they possibly regard that as praise?
So there’s one last issue that I raise,
And though it doesn’t go against the bone,
Aren’t words sometimes mightier than a stone?

Stuart Butler, June 2003

A lot of research, experience, reading and reflection has gone into this unit - but if there is one book that I would recommend here for further reading for teachers it would be “The Making of English National Identity” by Krishnan Kumar. C.U.P. 2003 1SBN 0-521-77736-4

“Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,
Britons never never never shall be slaves”,
But that’s because Great Britain owned the slaves
And millions from Africa found their graves
In land and water far from their homes’ dreams
And some died in England so fair and so green,
And England’s the subject that directs my pen,
For is England now what it was then?

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