Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Culture Of England
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.
Architecture and gardens
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
England produces hundreds of regional cheeses, including:
* Cheddar cheese
* Stilton cheese
* Wensleydale cheese
* Lancashire cheese
* Dorset Blue Vinney cheese
* Cheshire cheese
* Double Gloucester cheese
* Red Leicester
* Blue cheese
* Lincolnshire Poacher
Other dishes invented in or distinctive to England include:
* The English crumpet is a form of crumpet; it is distinguished from its Scottish equivalent by its greater thickness
* Muffins, known as 'English muffins' in North America, are a form of rounded, yeast-leavened bread
* Lancashire hotpot
* Cornish pasty
* Mushy peas
* Worcester sauce
* Clotted cream from Devon and Cornwall
* Yorkshire pudding
* Sausage and mash
* Eccles cake
* Cumberland sausage
* Lincolnshire sausage
* Balti, a form of curry invented in Birmingham
* Apple pie
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.
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.