British people

British people

Infobox Ethnic group
group= Britons/British people

caption = Notable Britons: Isambard Kingdom Brunel·Gordon Brown·Keira Knightley·Winston Churchill David Lloyd George·Kelly Holmes·Adam Smith·Horatio Nelson
popplace=flagicon|UK United Kingdom
50,366,497 ("White British" only, 2001 census)
60,000,000 (British born of any race or ethnicity)
ref0= [Commision For Racial Equality ( [] ); 2001 Census]
region1= USA
pop1= 36,564,465 1 678,000 2
ref1= [ [] Figures do not include those of Irish ancestry or those of British ancestry who were part of the 20,625,093 that reported 'American'; 61.3 million (61,311,449) Americans reported British ancestry in the [ 1980 Census] .] [Brits Abroad (USA) [] ]
region2= CAN
pop2= 603,000 2 12,134,745 1
ref2= [Canada 2006 Census( [] ) Figures do not include those who reported 'Irish'; those of British Isles origins who are part of the 5,748,7255 that only reported 'Canadian' are also not included.]
region3= AUS
pop3= 1,300,000 2 10,000,000 1
ref3= [Brits Abroad (Australia) ( [] ) Australia 2006 Census. Figures do not include those of British origins who described themselves merely as "Australian". ( [!OpenDocument] )]
region4= NZL
pop4= 215,000 2 2,425,278 1
ref4= [new Zealand Culture and Identity( [] )]
region5= ESP
pop5= 761,000 2
ref5= [BBC News, 2006, " [ Brits Abroad: Country-by-country] ", 11 December 2006 ]
region6 = flagcountry|Peru
pop6 = 378 000
ref6 = [ [ British Peruvian Chamber of Commerce ] ]
region7= flagicon|Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland
pop7= 291,000 2
ref7= [ [] "]
region8= flagicon|UK British Overseas Territories
pop8= 247,899 3
ref8= [List of current overseas territories]
region9= RSA
pop9= 212,000 2
ref9= [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region10= FRA
pop10= 200,000 2
region11= GER
pop11= 115,000 2
ref11= [!157&encType=1 Live Local Search ] ]
region12= ARG
pop12= 100,000 1
ref12= [ [ Fare of the country: A bit of Britain in Argentina] ]
region13= CYP
pop13= 59,000 2
region14= PAK
pop14= 47,000 2
ref14= [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region15= SUI
pop15= 45,000 2
ref15= [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region16= SIN
pop16= 45,000 2
ref16= [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region17= NED
pop17= 44,000 2
region18= ISR
pop18= 44,000 2
ref18= [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region19= THA
pop19= 41,000 2
region20= POR
pop20= 38,000 2
region21= PRC
pop21= 36,000 2
region22= TUR
pop22= 34,000 2
region23= IND
pop23= 32,000 2
region24= KEN
pop24= 29,000 2
ref24= [ [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
region25= SAU
pop25= 26,000 2
region26= JAM
pop26= 25,000 2
ref26= [ [ BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Brits Abroad ] ]
pop28= 13,000 2
ref28= [ [ Country Profile: Denmark ] ]
languages= Cornish·Dgèrnésiais·English·Irish·Jèrriais·Llanito·Manx·Scots·Scottish Gaelic·Welsh
religions=Mainly Christianity (Anglicanism, Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism).
related= British Americans·Anglo-Celtic Australian·Anglo-African· Belongers·English Canadians·Channel Islanders·English·Gibraltarian·Anglo-Irish·Ulster-Scots·Irish·Manx·New Zealand European·Scottish·Welsh
#People of full or partial British ancestry born in to that country
#British born people of British ancestry only (i.e. not 1)
#Politically British citizens due to the fact they reside in British overseas territories; however, few are ethnically British

British people, or Britons, [ [ Compact Oxford English Dictionary] , Oxford University Press, 2007] are the native inhabitants of Great Britain and their descendants [The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved 9 December 2005.] [ [ Definition of Briton] . Merriam-Webster Online] or citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, one of the Channel Islands, or of one of the British overseas territories. In a historical context, the word is used to refer to the ancient Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain south of the Forth. Contemporary Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended in Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in Northern France. [ Background Note: United Kingdom - People [ US Department of State] ] Since the 19th century, and particularly since the mid-20th century, there has also been migration into Britain by people from the Commonwealth, other parts of Europe and elsewhere; they and their descendants are mostly British citizens.

The British people are today regarded by some as a single nation, [Todd, M. "Anglo-Saxon Origins: The Reality of the Myth", p. ?; Bradshaw, B. (1998), "British Consciousness and Identity: The Making of Britain, 1533-1707", Cambridge University Press, p. ?; Colley, L. (2005), "Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837", Yale University Press, p. ?; Weight, R. (2003) "Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000", Pan Books; Ward, P. (2004), "Britishness Since 1870" Routledge, p. ?] and by others as a collection of separate nations - English, Scots, Welsh, - who share the island of Great Britain. [Hardill, Irene, Graham, David T., Kofman, Eleonore (2001), "Human Geography of the UK: An Introduction", Routledge, p. 5; see also survey and poll text below for popular opinion on the subject. ] [ Can pupils learn 'Britishness'?]


Greek and Roman writers between the first century BC and the first century AD describe the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland as "Priteni", [Harvnb | Snyder| 2003|p=12, 68] the origin of the Latin word "Britannic". Etymologicum Genuinum and Parthenius [Patrhenius, "Love Stories 2, 30" [] ] mention of "Bretannus" (the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek "Βρεττανός") as a Celt forefather of the Britons. It has been suggested that this name came from a Gaullish description meaning "people of the forms" referring to their practice of tattooing or painting their bodies using blue woad. [Harvnb | Cunliffe| 2002|p=95, [ Encyclopedia of the Celts] : Pretani] By 50 BC Greek geographers were using equivalents of "Prettanikē" as a group name for the islands. [Harvnb | O'Rahilly| 1946] [Harvnb | Snyder| 2003|p=12] However, with the Roman conquest of Britain the Latin term "Britannia" was used for the island of Great Britain. [ provides a translation describing Caesar's first invasion, using terms which from appear in Latin as arriving "tamen in Britanniam", the inhabitants being "Britannos", and on p30 "principes Britanniae" is translated as "chiefs of Britain".] [Harvnb | Cunliffe| 2002|pp=94-95 In Book 1 of his "Geography" Strabo uses the "B" spelling, in his other books he uses the "P" spelling: Cunliffe suggests this may have been an error by a scribe.] The name became associated with the Roman province of Britannia and as the Romans failed to establish control of the Scottish Highlands the frontier was effectively drawn at the Antonine Wall, then around AD 200 at Hadrian's Wall. The post-Roman period brought a series of invasions, and in medieval Britain control of territory by Britons became confined to Wales, Cornwall and northern England. The term "Britannia" remained in use as the Latin name for the island, and "Historia Britonum" claimed legendary British origins as a prestigious genealogy for Welsh kings, followed by the "Historia Regum Britanniae" which popularised this pseudo-history to support the claims of the kings of England.

The genetic record of the British people is still a matter for debate. It has been commonly supposed that today only the Welsh and the genetic descendants of the Cornish Britons remain in the same locations as their Dark Age and Medieval ancestorsFact|date=July 2007. However, recent research suggests that the majority of persons in all regions of Britain are the genetic descendants of settlers from the Iberian peninsula who arrived in Britain between 7500 and 15000 years ago. [ [ Special report: 'Myths of British ancestry' by Stephen Oppenheimer | Prospect Magazine October 2006 issue 127 ] ]

It is thought that ancient Iberia served as a refuge for palaeolithic humans during the last major glaciation when environments further north were too cold and dry for continuous habitation. When the climate warmed into the present interglacial, populations would have rapidly spread north along the west European coast. Genetically, in terms of Y-chromosomes and Mt-DNA, inhabitants of Britain and Ireland are closely related to the Basques, [ McDonald, World Haplogroups Maps] ] [] reflecting their common origin in this refugial area. Basques, along with Irish, show the highest frequency of the Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup R1b in Western Europe; some 95% of native Basque men have this haplogroup. The rest is mainly I and a minimal presence of E3b. The Y-chromosome and MtDNA relationship between Basques and people of Ireland and Wales is of equal ratios than to neighbouring areas of Spain, where similar ethnically "Spanish" people now live in close proximity to the Basques, although this genetic relationship is also very strong among Basques and other Spaniards. In fact, as Stephen Oppenheimer has stated in "The Origins of the British" (2006), although Basques have been more isolated than other Iberians, they are a population representative of south western Europe. As to the genetic relationship among Basques, Iberians and Britons, he also states (pages 375 and 378):

By far the majority of male gene types in the British Isles derive from Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal), ranging from a low of 59% in Fakenham, Norfolk to highs of 96% in Llangefni, north Wales and 93% Castlerea, Ireland. On average only 30% of gene types in England derive from north-west Europe. Even without dating the earlier waves of north-west European immigration, this invalidates the Anglo-Saxon wipeout theory...

...75-95% of British and Irish (genetic) matches derive from Iberia...Ireland, coastal Wales, and central and west-coast Scotland are almost entirely made up from Iberian founders, while the rest of the non-English parts of the Britain and Ireland have similarly high rates. England has rather lower rates of Iberian types with marked heterogeneity, but no English sample has less than 58% of Iberian samples...

Brian Sykes, in his book based on genetics "Blood of the Isles" (2006) comes to similar conclusions. Some quotations from the book follow. (Note that Sykes uses the terms "Celts" and "Picts" to designate the pre-Roman inhabitants of the Isles rather than as linguistic terms.)

[T] he presence of large numbers of Jasmine’s Oceanic clan ... says to me that there was a very large-scale movement along the Atlantic seaboard north from Iberia, beginning as far back as the early Neolithic and perhaps even before that. The number of exact and close matches between the maternal clans of western and northern Iberia and the western half of the Isles is very impressive, much more so than the much poorer matches with continental Europe. [Harvnb|Sykes|2006|p=280]

The genetic evidence shows that a large proportion of Irish Celts, on both the male and female side, did arrive from Iberia at or about the same time as farming reached the Isles. (...)

The connection to Spain is also there in the myth of Brutus.... This too may be the faint echo of the same origin myth as the Milesian Irish and the connection to Iberia is almost as strong in the British regions as it is in Ireland. (...)

They [the Picts] are from the same mixture of Iberian and European Mesolithic ancestry that forms the Pictish/Celtic substructure of the Isles. [Harvnb|Sykes|2006|pp=281-282]

Here again, the strongest signal is a Celtic one, in the form of the clan of Oisin, which dominates the scene all over the Isles. The predominance in every part of the Isles of the Atlantic chromosome (the most frequent in the Oisin clan), with its strong affinities to Iberia, along with other matches and the evidence from the maternal side convinces me that it is from this direction that we must look for the origin of Oisin and the great majority of our Y-chromosomes. The sea routes of the Atlantic fringe conveyed both men and women to the Isles. [Harvnb|Sykes|2006|p=283-284]

British Identity

Development of the idea of "Britishness"

In mediaeval times, the term "British" was used to refer to the pre Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of the island, in particular the Welsh - that is, those we would now call "ancient" Britons - in contrast to the English. For example, references by Giraldus Cambrensis to the "British" refer to what were later called the Welsh. [ [ Vision of Britain] ]

"British" only became synonymous with a national civic identity with the formation in 1707 of the united Kingdom of Great Britain, which became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and in turn, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the secession of what became the Republic of Ireland. Historian Linda Colley argues that following the 1707 Act of Union, it became common for the people of the Kingdom of Great Britain to have a "layered" identity, that is, to think of themselves as simultaneously British and also Scottish, English, and Welsh. [Colley, Linda; Britons; Forging the Nation, 1701-1837, Yale University Press, 1992.] She also elaborates that at time of its development, the notion of Britishness was "closely bound up with Protestantism". [Colley, Linda; Britons; Forging the Nation, 1701-1837, Yale University Press, 1992, p. 8] According to researcher Peter Borsay, the proliferation of neo-classical monuments at the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th, such as The Kymin at Monmouth, were attempts to solidify the concepts of "Great Britain" and "Britishness" at the time of the Act of Union with Ireland, war with France, and the expansion of the Empire through military and commercial might. He wrote [ Article by Peter Borsay - Myth, memory, and place: Monmouth and Bath 1750-1900] ] : cquote|Up until 1797 Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear, but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the Royal Navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular victories, the spear was replaced by a trident... The navy had come to be the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of what it was to be British.

"Britishness" today

"Britishness" today is sometimes used as a political concept seeking to develop or more often to define what it is to be British. The term is often associated with the British unionist tradition however the term "Unionist" is often associated with Northern Ireland and so "Britishness" is more often used. It can be seen however that Britishness evokes a range of responses and attitudes that make an exact definition elusive. [PDFlink| [ Citizenship and Belonging: What is Britishness?] |597 KiB Ethos, November 2005]

Most recently this concept has been used by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to initiate debate on British identity. [ [ Brown speech promotes Britishness] BBC News, 14 January 2006.] Brown's speech to the Fabian Society's "Britishness Conference" proposed that British values demand a new constitutional settlement and symbols to represent a modern patriotism, including a new youth community service scheme and a "British Day" to celebrate. [ [ The future of Britishness] Fabian Society, 14 January 2006.] He suggested that one focus could be in terms of celebrating the best of the United Kingdom stressing the view that what unites the United Kingdom is stronger than the issues dividing it, such as support in Scotland for Scottish independence, international football loyalties, or growing signs of English revolt against distribution of funds to the Scottish Parliament. One of the central issues identified at the Fabian Society conference was how the English identity fits within the framework of a devolved United Kingdom. Does England require a new constitutional settlement for instance? [ [ New Britishness must resolve the English question] Fabian Society, 14 January 2006]

A tangible expression of the Government's initiative to promote Britishness was the inaugural Veterans' Day which was first held on 27 June 2006. As well as celebrating the achievements of armed forces veterans, Browns' speech at the first event for the celebration said: "Scots and people from the rest of the UK share the purpose – that Britain has something to say to the rest of the world about the values of freedom, democracy and the dignity of the people that you stand up for. So at a time when people can talk about football and devolution and money, it is important that we also remember the values that we share in common". [cite news
title=Brown pinning his hopes on a new regiment
work=The Herald
date= 2006-06-27
accessdate= 2006-10-15


British identity has long been problematic in Ireland.Krishan Kumar, 2003, The Making of English National Identity, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge] Prior to the union with the Great Britain, British identity was never applied to Irish people. [John Morrill, 1996, The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain, Oxford University Press: Oxford] From an Irish perspective, regardless of religion or political persuasion, this status quo continued during the period when the whole island formed part of the United Kingdom, although a greater number of people on Great Britain began to describe Irish people as British during the same period. Since partition of the island in 1922, British identity has become a source of division in Northern Ireland. [Jonathan Tonge, 2006, Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change, Polity: Cambridge] In the Republic of Ireland, British identity is never asserted and will almost certainly cause offence. [Bernadette C. Hayes, Richard Sinnott, Tony Fahey, 2005, Conflict and Consensus: A Study of Values and Attitudes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Institute of Public Administration: Dublin] A pejorative [Laura O'Connor, "Neighborly Hostility and Literary Creoles: The Example of Hugh MacDiarmid" in Postmodern Culture, Volume 15, Number 2, January 2005 (The Johns Hopkins University Press)] term, "West Briton", has been in use since the 19th century, though not originally intended pejoratively, and was used by nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell British House of Commons in 1832:

Before the 20th century, and the partition of the country, the aristocratic class identified themselves as Anglo-Irish rather than British. At partition, Unionists in what was to become Northern Ireland, identified as Ulstermen or -women and the contentious term, "British Isles", was avoided by Unionist historians as much as it was by Nationalist ones.

Since the Troubles, there has been a doubling of those identifying as British within the Protestant community in Northern Ireland (rising to nearly 70%), while Ulster and Irish identity has collapsed among that group. There has been a 75% drop among Catholics of those identifying as British (from 20% down to 6%) in the same period, where Irish is the predominant identity (approximately 60%). High rates of intermarriage between nationalists and unionists following independence is attributed as the disappearance of British Unionist and Anglo-Irish identities in the Republic of Ireland, where the political implications of intermarriage are perceived as unimportant. In Northern Ireland, in contrast, with high degrees of housing, educational, political and community segregation, only 5% of marriages cross community divides. The people of Northern Ireland are jointly British and Irish citizens, and individuals may choose to assert either or both as they choose fit.

In the British overseas territories

The people of the British overseas territories are British by citizenship, via origins or naturalization. Along with aspects of common British identity, each of them has their own distinct identity shaped in the respective particular circumstances of political, economic, ethnic, social and cultural history. For instance, in the case of the Falkland Islanders that is explained by Lewis Clifton, Speaker of the Falklands Legislative Council as follows:

In the Commonwealth


In the 2006 Canadian census [ Canadian 2006 Census Data] , the provided statistics allow for more than one response, so that a person could record their ancestry as being both Scottish and Welsh.

Many British Americans have ancestry in America that dates back to colonial times in the 17th and 18th centuries. Those who went to New England are known as Yankees. With their roots being in America for such a long period, many British Americans have begun to think of themselves ancestrally simply as "Americans." This is especially true in the South.

British emigrant and ethnic descent communities are found across the world, and in some places, settled in significant numbers. Countries with significant numbers of people of English, Scottish, Ulster (Scots-Irish) and Welsh ancestry or ethnic origin include the United States (particularly Utah, New England, New York, California, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Southern States), Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

See also

* Alternative words for British
* British Isles (terminology)
* British nationality law
* British subject
* Demographics of the United Kingdom
* Immigration to the United Kingdom
* Ethnic groups of the United Kingdom
* List of British people
* List of Black Britons
* Genetic history of Europe


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