Friday, July 27, 2012


With the Olympic Opening Ceremony well under way in London (and soon to start on this side of the pond), why not a post on the British national identity?

This paragraph from an article in the the BBC News Magazine summarizes the complexity of the British national identity:

The English are British and lots of people think the British are English but that annoys the Scottish andWelsh because although some think they're British and some think they aren't and some think they are but don't want to be, they all agree that they definitely are not English. The Irish mostly think they are Irish, apart from the ones who are Northern Irish. Some say that makes them British and Irish. But others disagree and say they should just be Irish and then some say they aren't British either but part of the United Kingdom. People from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland can all play cricket for England because they're British as can those from Ireland even though they aren't British. So can South Africans. The English play football for England unless they aren't that good when they might try to play for Ireland. Those from the Isle of Wight are English, from Anglesey are Welsh and the Orkneys are Scottish, but although that means they aren't from the island of Great Britain they're still British. The Channel Islanders depend on the crown which is what the Queen wears but they aren't in the UK and those from the Isle of Man are the same, apart from their cats.
Actually, the entire article shines on various aspects of Britishness: accents, class, pubs, newspapers (and their puns), queuing, and self-deprecation - "an inescapable part of British discourse."

'Tis quite brilliant, actually.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Winston Churchill‬ and His Words of Power

July 4th, the day on which in 1776 America declared Independence from Great Britain with the Declaration of Independence. It is a national holiday that Americans revel in having the day off from work and also contemplate American history, at least for a second.

Being the Anglophile that I am, I spent America's Independence Day with that great Briton, Winston Churchill.

The Morgan Library and Museum 's "Churchill: The Power of Words" exhibit examines Churchill's language throughout his life. From his childhood through his days as a war correspondant in the Boer War, as a politician, the Prime Minister, and in retirement, words were Churchill's weapon of choice that he welded deftly.

The highlight of the Morgan's exhibit is an auditory series of excerpts from Churchill's famous and most influential speeches. Listening to Churchill deliver his famous speeches conveys more power than simply reading his words every could.

"Their finest hour"

This speech was delivered to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940 a month after he became Prime Minister.

"Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat"

This speech was delivered on May 13, 1940 also to the House of Commons.

Fun facts that I learned about Churchill:
  • Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn in Cobble Hill.
  • Churchill first visited the United States in 1895.
  • Churchill was a one of the highest paid and best known war correspondents during the Boer War.
  • Churchill not only developed a strong political alliance with the United States during the Second World War, but also a close friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 
  • Churchill was granted an Honorary Citizen of the United States by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. 
  • In addition to his love of writing, Churchill was also a painter, specializing in Impressionist landscape pieces.

Winston Churchill is not a historical figure that I have examined in depth on my own, but after this exhibit, I surely will give him the courtesy and time he so rightly deserves.