Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Sunday, 16 January, 2000, 19:27 GMT
Are the English violent?

Beware the English - a nation with the potential for aggression and violence.

That's the warning from Home Secretary Jack Straw, who has aired his views on a BBC radio debate about what it means to be British.

The English used their "propensity to violence" to "subjugate" the other home nations - before turning their attention to Europe and the British Empire, Mr Straw says.

He adds that unpleasant national characteristics may come to the fore, as the English look to identify themselves in an era of devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tory leader William Hague also voiced strong views on the programme.

He described English nationalism as "the most dangerous of all forms of nationalism that can arise within the United Kingdom, because England is five-sixths of the population of the UK".

Are the politicians right? Are the English natural warriors who settle scores with their fists? Or is this a useless stereotype for a multi-cultured country?

Your reaction

I am fed up with people knocking the English national. If you look into every country's history you could find a bad side. Just because I am proud to be English does not mean I am part of the Racist Scum Brigade and I refuse be ashamed of who I am. Why is it we can be nationalistic if we are Irish, Scottish or any other country but have to justify being proud to be English.
L Fletcher, England

If the consensus is that the English (or the British in general) are not a violent race, could we be described as being pacifistic? I don't think so. A militaristic past and being prepared to use military means to dominate rule others is a legacy of our history and thus is part of our culture. I believe that we are among the more aggressive nations yet our spirit of tolerance tends to keep this in check yet, for may reasons, I fear that this tolerance is fading.
Judd Stephenson, Italy

One only has to walk into a crowded pub in England after being away for a while to notice the undercurrent of restrained violence in the air.
Simon Gibbons, Luxembourg
Yes, I think the English are more violent as people than other nationalities (and at its most extreme amongst men). One only has to walk into a crowded pub in England after being away for a while to notice the undercurrent of restrained violence in the air - and this is very different in Ireland. The glorification of violence in much of the media adds to it.
The English attitude to foreigners, their behaviour on holiday, their feeling that they are still superior (despite having lost the empire sometime ago and not having won a major sporting event for quite some time) shows in their sneering contempt for anything not English and their inability to learn foreign languages.
Someone suggested that Mr Straw's comments were outdated ethnic generalisations, but I can assure him that these are cultural observations based upon very real behavioural evidence that is all-too obvious.
Simon Gibbons, Luxembourg

As an Englishmen in Wales I can see the damage that the 'English attitude' has caused. It can be called nothing less than land rape. It works like this;
1. try to crush any regional differences i.e. ban the local language (as was the case for a long long time in Wales) 2. Take as many natural resources as you can
3. Close those industries once they can't be privatised.
4. Get the EU to plough money into the region attempting to revitalise the devastated community. Sound's the English way.
Simon Atkinson, Wales

As an Englishwoman who has lived all over the USA in the last seventeen years, I think it is laughable to suggest that the British are naturally violent. What does that make Americans? British people have to let off steam from the frustrations of the society in which they live. That's true of any country, but possibly more so in Britain, because the Brits do have a problem standing up and voicing their opinions in public and bottle up all their frustrations to vent at football matches! Sign me, Born in the UK!
Lesley Daley, UK

This was a disgraceful attack on the English race. No politician would have dared say these disgusting things about any other race. Why are we English expected to put up with things that would probably land the speaker in court if they were said about the Welsh, Scots, Indians, Chinese or West Indians? We are no more violent than any other race and a lot more peaceful than many.
Why should the English not have their own Parliament? The Scots have one, so do the Northern Irish. Even the Welsh have an Assembly. We are the biggest country in the UK but we are the only country in these islands to have no legislative body to represent us. Where is the justice in this state of affairs continuing? There is no justice.
I. Clark, England

Of course they are a violent nation. Don't you remember the brutal oppression of people of Indian subcontinent in the colonial era? Jews of Europe have been getting their rightful compensation for the atrocities committed to them by Europeans before/during WWII. But even after half century, UK has not returned the stolen wealth of Indian subcontinent which was much richer before the arrival British colonial era. Let's see when they become civilised enough to do that!!
Biswajit, India / USA

How can one generalise on this massive scale to label a whole nation by the tag of the few. There are violent people in this country, and lots of them, but there are also such people other countries, be it the USA, Germany or Paraguay, and there always will be such people. It is part of the balance and variation of society.
The violence in this country is in a large part down to our proficiency for alcohol and there are also extreme political groups. But I will reiterate the point that it is the same everywhere. But do we overthrow governments by violent coup? Do our police have to approach criminals with severe apprehension for fear of being shot? Is our government dictating a policy of mass genocide? The British are no more violent than any other race, and a lot less so than in some.
Steffan, Wales

I agree with Pater Howe - very strange how no-one from Wales or Scotland stood up to say 'that's wrong' when the British Empire was being created - all were quite happy to enjoy the benefits of empire. It's only the blight of political correctness which has driven these divisions between people.
Also, to compartmentalise a person because of nationality is a banal generalisation (which is the basis of being PC, a cult which is the preserve of the pious semi-intelligent)
Pete B, England

I'm English and well travelled. There is most definitely a culture of violence in this country, and that includes Scotland and Wales. If you don't think so, well try going on holiday somewhere apart from Benidorm... The only place I have felt more threatened is Russia, and they have reason to be angry. We enjoy an excellent standard of living and have no such reason.
Martin, England

I'm sorry, but my image of the Englishman is someone who is cool, calm, collected, never looses control, never gets excited.
Bruce Alan Wilson, USA
English? Violent? I'm sorry, but my image of the Englishman is someone who is cool, calm, collected, never looses control, never gets excited. The sort of person who describes WW II as "the German unpleasantness." I have an image of Armageddon going on all around him and the Englishman sitting down for tea at five o'clock.
Of course, as we see at soccer matches (what you call football), when that kind of control *goes* it *goes all the way.*
Bruce Alan Wilson, USA

Having listened to the BBC programme in question, I was shocked to learn that the English not only took the whole UK by force, but the slave trade was something people think we should all be ashamed of. Fine, apart from the fact that the British Navy actually suppressed the slave trade. That, I suppose would count in Mr Straw's litany of English 'violence', as would our involvement in defeating Hitler and Napoleon - or perhaps he would be happier living in the 'United' Europe that these walking obscenities wished to create?
Gerard Charmley, UK

Since before 1066 - England has been mainly occupied by Eastern European and Germans (Franks and Normans). So, if we are discussing whether those persons longest on this 'English' part of the isle are innately violent, well, possible. If you need to ask a 'more true' Englishman - ask a Welshman or someone from Brittany in France - and you'll get a genetically truer account- in my opinion.
Sharon Reeve, England

Every country has had violence in its past and England is no exemption. Let us recognise that and move on to create a new sense of what it is to be English. Despite what is said we have a lot to be proud of. Our system of law, government and parliament for starters. But we need to be clear about the future. In political terms let's not look to England but to the regions that make up England. What is needed is regional government allowing the regions of the nations to properly express themselves and have control over their economic destiny. Through this the sum that is England will be greater than the parts. Without we will remain a poorer place and be open to the base and ignorant nationalism that is so dangerous.
Stuart White, England

I am Proud To be Welsh, But I hold no animosity towards any of the other nations within the UK.
Increase The Peace
J, Wales

For Jack Straw to say that we are violent is an outdated view which would have belonged in the 15th Century.
Graham Palmer, England
I would say historically, the English have been a violent nation. But for Jack Straw to say that we are violent is an outdated view which would have belonged in the 15th Century. This Government does however risk the wrath of nationalism with the effect of devolution. For Scottish students looking likely to have their fee system scrapped while the English pay for theirs and Scottish and Welsh MP's voting in the House of Commons when English MP's cannot vote in the devolved Parliaments' does provoke the likelihood of nationalism. If it does happen, Tony Blair cannot blame anyone else but himself.
Graham Palmer, England

There is no English race or ethnic group. Neither are the Celtic peoples of Ireland Wales and Cornwall of a different race or ethnic group. The Lowland Scots come from the same place as the northern English historically. The others came from Ireland. This idea of different inherent characteristics of ethnic groups belongs to the nineteenth century when the Germanic races were beginning to think themselves superior.
It is a disgrace that a government minister in the year Two Thousand is so ill informed that he would even think such a thing. If they are not separate ethnically they cannot be singled out from other inhabitants of the British Isles or of Western Europe and therefore the statement that the English are violent is a nonsense.
M E Wood, New Zealand

In Scotland, since Devo, I find that the Scots are now more friendlier and better disposed of to the English. The Political pressures that were causing nationalist tensions have now dissipated greatly. I would advise devolution for England.
Stephen Blair, Scotland

The English aren't violent just high spirited.
Ben Kerry, UK

It would be great if people could get over the past and not make such grand generalisations about entire cultures.
James, USA

I'm likely to be classed as English - by Scots and Welsh etc., but I do count Keoghs, Colquhouns and Robertsons amongst my ancestors. If I have an inherited propensity for violence, is it from my English, Irish or Scots forebears? My Irish great-grandfather served in the British army! The British nations are a mongrel bunch and any claim to recognisable character traits is unsupportable.
David Mottram, England

England has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. On the other hand we do obviously have a problem with alcohol-related violence. This is largely owing to the failures of the English educational system. Thankfully we are (finally) doing something about this.
Jonathan Rudge, England

Violent. Who us? Surely not. We're a bunch of big fluffy wuffy bunny wabbits. Come on - give an English person a big cuddle. We're soft, we're mushy, we're never very pushy.
Mark T, England

I think that there is a certain amount of bias and misinterpretation in Jack Straw's comments. To claim that the English are violent is to blow things out of proportion. Generally speaking, the people of England are a benign and tolerant lot. However, I think the term "English", apart from when dealing with literature and language, is redundant as the concept of an English race of people has long subsided.
Andrew Stevens, England

Will Jack Straw now criticise the Greeks, the Romans and every other 'civilisation' that had an empire at one time? England is no more violent than any other nation in the UK and whilst I am proud to be a Scot and occasionally I have a moan at my big cousins the English, I like most Scots in times of real crisis would be happy and proud to stand beside our UK family members. We have in the past and will do so in the future.
Gerry, Scotland

It is important to remember the socio-economic differences within England. I haven't seen any reference to the diversity of England and its people. For example, in almost every aspect, the north east, where I live, and the south east of England are poles apart. Following devolution, there is a sense of frustration felt by people in England, and, in particular, the northern English regions. The danger is that the north east region of England may be dominated as never before by London and the South East, now that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to decide their own destinies to a certain degree.
Peter O'Brien, UK

Surely the premise of the question is false? The tensions in the UK today are as evident WITHIN England as between the latter and Wales/Scotland. The debate over the North/South divide, the move for elected assemblies in the English Regions, the economic dominance of the South East indicate that "England" is increasingly a myth. One that has survived by its conflation with Britain. Regional and National devolution merely highlights the economic and political decline of the British state and expose the stresses that have long been suppressed. The process is only just beginning.
Richard Harris Wales

The British Empire was BRITISH; any shame is shared. For the celtic nations to deny this is self-deception.
Pater Howe, England
The Scots and Welsh distance themselves from the British Empire as though they played no part in its establishment and management. I assume therefore - as they play no role in the British Military - that they will concede that it was the English, Americans and Russians that defeated Germany in the Second World War. The British Empire was BRITISH; any shame is shared. For the celtic nations to deny this is self-deception.
Pater Howe, England

Why does the BBC persist in publishing the racist comments of some Irish and Scottish people? You wouldn't do it the other way round!
G. Acres, Austria (English)

Britain is a great country and nothing can change that. But, in the world we have seen how much our societies are changing and we realise that 'nationalism' can get us into a lot of trouble. We see other countries in the world making the same mistakes. All nations go through a 'nationalism' phase. I trust that England will survive as a highly civil nation that is united and focused on the things that are most important.
Dave Adams, USA

I noticed a Saturday evening in any English town isn't considered complete by its young men without a pub brawl.
Ralph Schmidt, Germany
I am from Germany and people will say I have no right to judge England's attitude towards violence because of my own country's past. But times have changed. Nationalism is regarded a bad thing in Germany and most people here are tolerant of other races, nations and religions. There is a very aggressive anti-German tone in English newspapers. England was never forced to deal with the evil of nationalism. Not unlike in the US where nationalism is not only accepted but encouraged. I have visited England several times and I've been treated very well by most people but I noticed a Saturday evening in any English town isn't considered complete by its young men without a pub brawl. A friend of mine was attacked in a pub because he was German. English friends warned us not to go out on Saturdays because of the aggressive atmosphere. I haven't seen that in any other European country or in Germany.
Ralph Schmidt, Germany

To say the English are violent because of an empire is wrong. The Scots, the Irish and the Welsh all fought, controlled and profited from an empire. I do not believe that the English are any more prone to violence than the rest of GB. Rather it has become the trend for other home nations to slander and abuse the English.
Nicholas Mackenzie-Shaw, China

What I do not understand lately is the mild streak of anti-Americanism one encounters when the English discuss problems like violence. What make it more puzzling is why the English HAVE CHOSEN to import bad cultural influences from the US while ignoring the good! Examples would be the English love affair for American gangster rap, ultra-violent movies and moronic TV shows? We have a lot of good things to offer. Does it strike anyone as odd that London - the crown jewel of world cities - has higher crime rate than New York? Perhaps the English can learn from New York's example, and crack down on crime and the liberal criminal justice system.
Chris Fargnoli, USA

It is depressing to hear how awful the English were, especially from the Irish over here. But the English suffered just as much as the Irish. Let's blame those in power, not the English per se, who are no different to anyone else.
Peter Williams, USA

As a nation, as a government, England has been violent in subduing and dominating other peoples. But any more violent than any other nation (such as my own)? I think not. I do fear football hooligans, and I do fear nationalist groups, but I fear them in the States as much as I fear them in Britain. Having travelled in the U.K., and often alone, I am asked, "aren't you afraid?" I point out that the British bobby does *not* carry a gun (nor does the average U.K. citizen - handguns are banned.) I often feel safer in the U.K. because of that very fact.
Sylvia, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

The English have in the past; like any other nation committed; atrocities, but also have a top class record in standing against tyrants. This is now historical and England has given over it's Empire (mostly in a peaceful way) and grown to be a multicultural and tolerant society. Evidence of this is in the number of asylum seekers who cross several European states to claim political asylum here.
Paul, UK

I have lived in a number of areas of the US and Europe for many years now and have travelled extensively elsewhere also. Britain is an exceptionally peaceful place to be. How many people have left their job in Norwich after briefing their colleagues on what to do if the locals start shooting at you for fun? How many people see paramilitary outfits and Alsatian dogs proudly paraded on London train platforms during mid week rush hours as in Cologne etc. It is time to 'Get over it'. This is exactly why I left the country. America has little of worth to be truly proud of and yet every child, backpacker, adult, almost without exception will tell you they have the greatest society on the planet. It is time Britain either decided to move forward or turn off the lights and lock the doors. The English as a group are too tolerant, too self-deprecating and too bored with the whole thing to stand up for themselves.
David Clark, British Living in US

If the British establishment which controls England are afraid of a violent English backlash against the fact that the minority fringe nations now get their own democratic assemblies as well as votes on English affairs in the British parliament, they had better start, for the first time in fifty years, considering English feelings instead of ignoring them to accommodate Celtic and other minorities' interests.
IM Archer, England

There's something very bizarre about the general perception of national identity in the UK. I'm working in the USA, and the stars and stripes are everywhere - even private homes have flagpoles. Yet if I put the Union Jack up in my garden back home in England, I'll be accused of being racist, nationalist, and I'll probably get a brick through my window. Very, very sad.
Nigel Bannister, UK (currently in US)

I'm a little surprised that someone in the position of Home Secretary would make such tactless and baseless remarks. The "English race." It sounds...archaic. Whenever the word "race" is mentioned to try and describe something real I start to get nervous. There aren't really such things as nice, sensible, easily measured races with definable characteristics. Didn't we decide all this after the WWII? Wasn't that the point?
Sandy Mackenzie, Scotland

Every nation has a violent element. England is no different.
Stuart Townsend, England
The problem lies in the manner in which democracy is implemented. People are encouraged to have an "opinion" on everything, whether or not they have made any attempt to define the problem, seek out the facts or come up with a rational solution. Instead, people appeal to their basic instincts, voicing "opinions" such as "I hate the French/Germans..." This is built on the misconception that we are such a powerful nation that we can arbitrarily cause conflict with neighbouring nations at no consequence. Such people are gravely mistaken. Pretty soon, our country will be a mere part of a very small island, with united potential enemies all around. It's time to engage our brains and start making friends before it's too late.
Rob Harris, England

Jack Straw speaks for himself and the Labour Party which for some reason feels ashamed to be English. Every nation has a violent element. England is no different. Look across the Atlantic to see how a real violent nation operates - I find it amusing, if not insulting that Americans can label us violent. How many homes in England have access to firearms? Etc. The rest of Europe didn't seem to have any trouble with English violence during WWII. Nor does anybody else when it comes to helping them out.
Stuart Townsend, England

History surely teaches us that extreme nationalism "per se" is evil. It could be described as a kind of grand-scale psychopathy, denying the equal rights of other nations and acting without conscience towards them. But English nationalism is no different in this respect to any other, be it German, Serb, Chinese or Russian. It is the "Nationalism" not the country of origin that is wrong. It seems fatuous to me to attempt to brand whole populations as one thing or another. There co-exist in all societies sinners and saints.
Ken Holt, U.K

Was England ever really a military empire built on aggression and violence? Or was and is it a nation like any other that uses whatever are the fashionable methods to advance its national interest? I would submit that England's history of dynasties, wars economic and population growth would suggest the latter.
Alan Cooke, UK

I hate nationalism - it has been responsible for some of the world's most destructive wars. There is nothing wrong with being proud to belong to any nation but many people go further and suggest that their nation is superior to others and this is bound to lead to anger. I do not think the English are more aggressive than any other race
Bill, UK
I hate nationalism - it has been responsible for some of the world's most destructive wars. There is nothing wrong with being proud to belong to any nation but many people go further and suggest that their nation is superior to others and this is bound to lead to anger. I do not think the English are more aggressive than any other race. I have noticed recently however, that previously tolerant English people are beginning to become irritated by the apparent positive discrimination in favour of non-English people in many walks of life - including in politics. They cite television as an example - noting how many Scottish and Welsh presenters there are on our screens. There are a great many Scots, Irish and Welsh people living and working in England and the English have usually taken any of their nationalist taunting with good grace. I fear that in future this may not always be the case.
Bill, UK

Are the English Violent? Some are - the same is true of any other nation. Jack Straw's quote is almost certainly based around England's ugly reputation for football hooliganism. The explanation - the England team finds itself on the World stage more often than any of the other Home Nations, and so is under closer scrutiny.
Karl Hayward-Bradley, UK

Many of the comments have touched on the media portrayal of events and for good reason. Many of us would have attended events and seen cameramen and photographers looking for trouble and carefully positioning themselves for maximum dramatic effect. People need to forget what they have seen on British TV that will naturally report more British violence than other countries. People should rely on their own experiences of people they know both here and abroad. They will quickly realise that all humans are the same regardless of race and that to segregate the residents of the southern half of a small island West of Europe is just absurd!
Craig Swainland, England

How ridiculous! The English are no more inclined towards violence than any other nation. I can't believe it has been suggested considering the amount of national violence that goes on in other parts of the world on a daily basis. Straw, as ever, is talking vacuous rubbish. Personally as a very non-violent English national I am extremely offended.
Laura Berrill, England

It is obvious that every nation has its bad elements, and when the worst of people hold the reins of power, problems follow. Anyone who makes sweeping judgements about entire nations or any large geographic group reveals great ignorance.
Derick Mackenzie, Scotland (Isle of Lewis).

What a disgrace. If I was to say "Blacks are more likely to be drug pushers" or "Asians are more likely to own corner shops" and I was serious about it I would be branded a racist. I am English, I'm proud of that fact and of my heritage, much the same as any Scotsman or Welshman. I am not violent by nature and I resent the stereotype. Mr Straw should keep his xenophobic attitudes to himself and deal with the real issues of the day.
Gary Hart, UK

I dare not speak in Scotland due to my English accent. London is very multi cultural and accepting of people. The English are no worse than anyone else.
KJD, England

The propensity for violence due to the rise of English nationalism is sadly inevitable. The English as a nation are living in the past, obsessed with what was a glorious history but is sadly no more.
Pete M, UK
I grew up in Scotland before spending 4 years in England and then moving to Germany. Anyone who denies the tendency of the English to violence must do so out of ignorance, or that other common English trait - arrogance. The two are inextricably linked. My years in England were the most depressing and oppressive of my years to date. The very fact that I would not dare set foot outside in the dark in England is evidence enough - I would hardly think twice about it in Germany or Scotland.
lm, Germany

As someone who works with mainly English people, I can't say I've noticed a lot of violence directly. However, the past speaks for itself. You don't dominate over half the globe without resorting to violence. Closer to home, the English were certainly violent and cruel when they slaughtered highland Scots to graze cattle on their land and when they let the Irish starve during the potato famine.
Julie, Scotland

The English are now a frustrated nation whose past achievements are no longer respected. The threat of violence is what allowed them to overwhelm as many nations as they have during their colonial efforts and against their home nations. Watching all this crumble around them is bound to bring can only bring out the worst in a nation. Violence, or the threat of it, has no place in our modern democracy, which is why England's position in Europe and around the world can only continue to slide.
Donald McIntosh, Scotland

The British are more knowledgeable, respectful and thoughtful of other cultures than most other people I've come across.
MM Zaman, UK in US
I can tell you that the British (including the English) are amongst the most accepting and kind when it comes to their minorities (especially non-whites). In addition the British are more knowledgeable, respectful and thoughtful of other cultures than most other people I've come across.
As a Brit of Bangladeshi descent, I have found that Americans use stereotypes continually, and are the angriest people I've ever encountered (just look at all the armed militias there). Additionally, it's just not white Americans that are angry, but also American minorities.
MM Zaman, UK in US

I now live and work in Paris and compared to the English the people here are the most small-minded and aggressive race I have ever had to deal with. Please don't put the rest of us English under the umbrella of football hooliganism which is predominately lead by male lager louts who have accepted that this disgusting laddish behaviour is the norm. In my experience, English people are the most polite, willing to help and definitely know what customer service is all about.
Suzi, Paris

The English have conquered the rest of Britain, Ireland, North America, India, parts of China, most of Africa, Australia-New Zealand, the Falklands, Gibraltar, a plethora of Caribbean and Pacific islands, Malaysia and Singapore in their time. How could anyone argue that they are not violent? Did this all happen by accident?
Peter FitzPatrick, Ireland

I find it interesting the way people who contribute to these discussions post comments here have nothing to do with the question. Geoff Kilpatrick is of the opinion that
''If the English had any sense, they would dissolve the Union and use the extra money they would receive to fund treatment for a 'flu crisis for example''.
What's that got to do with the question ' are English people violent?' Nothing of course. Geoff is setting his own anti-English agenda for reasons unknown. He goes on to say England is run by the Scottish. Tony Blair is not Scottish and I recall a referendum not so long ago where 51% of the Scottish people voted not to be governed by the English. Get your facts straight Geoff.
A small percentage of the Scottish seem to love having a go at England. I suspect it is because they are bad losers and cannot forget they were beaten by England in a war most have long since forgotten about. Perhaps we should still all spit venom at the Italians for the Roman occupation?? Or perhaps the more vindictive of us should grow up?
Roy Matthews, England

The assertion that the English are violent is a typical politician's simplification. I have no doubt that some aspects of "English" history are shameful but that is not the issue here.
The reason English Nationalism is on the increase is the farcical situation where Scottish, Welsh and Northern-Irish MPs can continue to vote on measures that directly affect England but the English MPs have reduced powers in the devolved assemblies. Michael Howard is 100% correct on this issue.
When do we get to expel the MPs from the devolved areas and make the decisions for the benefit of those in England? After all we are the majority the rest are just hangers-on. Get rid of them I say.
John, UK

How dare anyone say that the English are more violent than other nations? Citing 300-year-old wars and football hooliganism doesn't exactly give an accurate picture of the average modern English person. It makes me SO ANGRY! I could almost write a polite but firm letter to my MP.....
Sara, UK (England)

I am a soccer fan that was born in England. Currently living in the US. I was always scared of being Asian and going to a soccer match because of some racist cowards. Calling me names like 'you Paki'. The English public needs to realise that they have a problem unfortunately.
Chan Chohan, USA

I don't believe we are any more violent than any other group. The rise of nationalism is not confined to the UK though and it will continue as politicians force integration and devolution on huge sections of the European population without a popular mandate.

Remember that most islanders are small-minded and aggressive, perhaps due to their small horizons.
Mark Moore, England
Bloch's List [he was a Polish banker] is a measure of how many years per century, over the past thousand years, each country has been at war with someone, somewhere. England is way ahead of the field. It would be well to remember, however, that most of England's wars have been small in scale compared with those fought by Spain, France and Germany over the past thousand years. Remember also that most islanders are small-minded and aggressive, perhaps due to their small horizons.
Mark Moore, England

It is only natural that the English should now focus on their national identity. Given that the Scottish, Welsh and Irish have been allowed devolution from Westminster. What Mr Straw and his colleagues really have to address is the way UK is governed in the future. It appears that the other home countries are getting their say on how services (e.g.: education) are implemented at home and in England.
As for Mr Straws concern that the English are violent... this is only a perception caused by media focus on a small minority. Other countries also have their problems with people of this mentality. What he should really be looking at is that there is not a right to a passport. It is a privilege, which if abused, should be withdrawn.
Alan, Switzerland

I have only ever seen two real differences between the English and their Celtic cousins:-
1. They can't handle their drink. When this has its inevitable effect, they start battling with one another.
2. The "Hooray Henry" types who think they're superior to everyone else on the planet. They get up the nose of everybody on the planet because of it.
If the English had any sense, they would dissolve the Union and use the extra money they would receive to fund treatment for a 'flu crisis for example. But because the English are a docile race, they let the Scots run them.
Geoff Kilpatrick, Scotland, UK

My wife's American and during the last World Cup, I explained that England v Argentina was a grudge match, because we'd had a war with them. She said "I thought that was England v Germany?" and I explained that was as well.
In fact England has had so many wars that we have grudge matches also against Russia, Turkey, Spain, France, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Italy, USA, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Austria and most of the rest of the world.
Maybe they were all the aggressors and we were innocent victims? I think not....
David E Flavell, England

Britain was the biggest imperial before the Second World War. After WWII, it soon lost all its colonies and became just another nation in Europe. It owes its present eminence and position in the World to the United States. With such a sudden loss of wealth and power, people are bound to become more violent and aggressive at home. British are no exception.
Ken Bhandary, USA

I can no more accept the suggestion that English people are naturally violent than I would accept a suggestion that the Scots, the Pakistanis, the Chinese, the Africans or anyone else are naturally violent.
Geoff Brownsett, UK/Sweden
The only clear generic characteristic I have ever been able to attribute to the English, with any degree of justification, is our tendency to put ourselves down with silly stereotypes like the one Mr Straw seems to have used. I can no more accept the suggestion that English people are naturally violent than I would accept a suggestion that the Scots, the Pakistanis, the Chinese, the Africans or anyone else are naturally violent.
As for the suggestion that we have a propensity to subjugate other nations, well I wish we could move on from that kind of trendy guilt/false modesty. We (the English) are just 50 million of the 6 billion human beings with our tendencies to violence and our tendencies to love and our tendencies to make silly remarks in conversation with journalists. We (the British) have a heritage which includes a lot to be embarrassed about and a lot to be proud of, and has left us in a world with very mixed feelings about us (most of which end up dumped on the English).
Geoff Brownsett, UK/Sweden

Here, Here Peter... I agreeż you just have to talk to the visitors coming into the UK. The English are considered as stand-offish.
Martin, Scotland

There is a rage in Britain that is quite palpable to the foreign visitor.
R Canham, USA
Yes, I would say that the English have propensity toward violence. And this is not limited to obvious groups such as football hooligans. I don't think the English as a group has a particular gene or a natural propensity toward violence, but as a casual observer on many visits to England, there is something that makes a great many of the English seem to be on the verge of anger. This is not, in my experience limited to any one class or economic group. There is a rage in Britain that is quite palpable to the foreign visitor.
R Canham, USA

It's not surprising to hear British politicians coming out with such clap trap. It's British politicians that have sold the nation for a mess of pottage over the last 40 years. It's British politicians, with their yearning to cultivate that "special relationship" with their "cousins" across the pond that have opened the floodgates to all the worst characteristics coming from that part of the world.
When I was a lad in England, industry and diligence were still traits that were considered honourable and which were promoted in schools and in society as a whole. It wasn't the "English" who threw all that away. Only British politicians could be capable of the irrational mental process that says devolution of a United Kingdom is necessary at the same time as calling for the federation of nations in a European Union.
David Baynes, Canada

Lets not forget that ALL British have in the past century fought and lost many lives in support of democracy and in defence of many nations themselves under the heel of oppression. Do not confuse strength and principle with being a 'bully race'. Each country has it's own fair share of bullies, England is no different and the British including the English have an unenviable record of defending human rights despite the warts.
Nick Locke, Canada

Yes, I agree there is a minority of people in the UK who are brought to the forefront of the media to portray the "English mentality". However, the majority of English people are law-abiding and friendly. I live in the US and can't wait to go back and live in the UK. If you want see violence, you might want to come and live in the US for a few months.

Even if you disagree about the US, what about the conflicts around the world. Aren't these people more hateful than the English. Come on, let's get realistic and not blow everything out of proportion as we are so apt to do.
Zoe, US/UK

As a Scot living abroad, I take great exception to the classification of the English as thugs or trouble-makers.The most polite, controlled people and ethical, not to mention the most free, are to be found throughout the UK - including the 'green and pleasant land'. So to all you Sassonachs (Anglo Saxons), be proud to be English; we Scots are rightly proud of ourselves too. Britain contributed so much in ethics, industry etc.
David Simpson

All humans have the capacity to become violent and this is never closer to the surface than when impassioned by a few beers. Plus some people take sports more seriously than others. To peg the violence on a whole nation is akin to racism. Anyone can learn to be a non-violent person. And no Nationality is more or less violent than the others.The USA is a good example, we have a multitude of nationalities over here beating up on each other. I personally practice non-violence but get a few Guinness in me and talk trash on the padres (pro baseball club) and I get angry. It's human!
Doug Bark, USA

Very violent. I'm English born but have a strong American accent from living there. I risk everything everytime I open my mouth especially in or near pubs. Doormen and police are particularly dodgy as they see themselves on the front. Hence ..National Front. They are thus called because they are often found lurking in the front of premises as a sort of constant reminder to the general public that brute force is all that really matters. They are extremely volatile and seem to act above the law. They have no respect for individual rights but when all is said and done they are basically cowards.
Howard, UK

The term "English" is out-dated, except when it comes to sport. I always call myself British. We, the BRITISH, have a terrible reputation for holliganism abroad, but as BBC's MacIntyre Undercover showed, that had more to do with organised violence. I feel their comments have little ground, especially in an age where devolution is more about the small issues while the big ones are being settled in Europe - its not long before we're all "Europeans" let alone British, English or whatever.
Michael Amherst, Britain

Sorry, Michael Amherst, but don't accuse the Scots or Welsh of being hooligans just because the English are. How Dare You! The fact is that historically, England have been tyrants and bully boys, it's no wonder the so called English 'fans' try to be the same when they go abroad.
Peter McCluskey, Scotland

Persons who have a Representative Body for their own nation (N. Irish, Scottish, Welsh) take part in debates and make laws in areas where their own population is not affected. Those nations' previous sense of unjustice is an appropriate sense for all English people. The English aggression is part and parcel of other pro-active aspects of the English character. These in the past have usually been a positive benifit for the English nation and will doubtless prove to be so again.
Tony Walsh, Sultanate of Oman

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
09 Jan 00 |  UK
English nationalism 'threat to UK'

More Talking Point debates
Pinochet: Should he be allowed home?
Has the family changed forever?
Should Sinn Fein be allowed into Westminster?
Is big business wrecking democracy?
Should India grant asylum to the boy Lama?
Tall men: Does size matter?
Has the internet changed forever?
Can the NHS cope with the flu epidemic?
Should doctors go on strike?
Should the Cuban boy go back?
Arkan: Your reaction

Links to other Talking Point stories