British, The

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

British, The


a nation (natsiia; nation in the historical sense); the basic population of Great Britain (numbering about 45 million in 1967). They also reside in Ireland and areas outside the British Isles—British dominions and colonies and other countries. The English language belongs to the west German group of the Indo-European family of languages. The majority of religious believers in England are members of the Anglican Church (more than 25 million); 3.4 million belong to the Roman Catholic Church; and there are many members of various Protestant sects embraced by the term “Free Churches.”

The English people formed as a result of intermixing and a long process of assimilation of heterogeneous ethnic elements. One of the first groups to inhabit the British Isles consisted of the Celtic tribes (Britons and others) who settled there around 500 B.C.; in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., Germanic tribes—the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes—migrated to England from the continent. They partially assimilated the Celts and partially drove them back to the hills of Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall. The Anglo-Saxon nationality group that developed in the seventh to tenth centuries from the German and Celtic tribes was considerably influenced by the Scandinavians ( Danes, Norwegians) who’ conquered several regions of England in the eighth and ninth centuries. The most significant event in the ethnic history of England was the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Franco-Norman barons assumed a ruling position in the country, and French became the official language, although the people continued to speak their own Anglo-Saxon tongue. Gradually (by the 13th and 14th centuries), the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans were fused into a common community of English people. The English colloquial and literary language developed in the 16th century. The English bourgeois revolution of the 17th century was the final stage in the development of the English nationality. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, many English people resettled in colonies seized by England, and the English became one of the chief elements in the formation of a number of new nationalities—the Americans of the USA, the British Canadians, the Australians, and the New Zealanders.

The distinctive features of England’s historical development had a lasting effect on many aspects of English life and contributed to the preservation of various traditional features of social and daily life. The traditional two-family houses (consisting of two stories) are still in use—old-fashioned dwellings with fireplaces for heating; many of the traditional national dishes form part of the cuisine (beefsteak, roast beef, porridge, different kinds of pudding). The attachment to old forms and traditions in social and public life is most characteristic of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois elements of English society. Various societies and clubs play an important part in the life of England. Many athletic games originated in England. English athletic terminology and expressions are commonly used in almost all European countries. The English people have a rich tradition of oral folklore. The best-known English national ballads are accompanied by the harp and the violin.


Narody zarubezhnoi Evropy, vol. 2. Moscow, 1965. (Bibliography.)
Maevskii, V. V. Na Britanskikh ostrovakh. Moscow, 1955.
Kosminskii, E. A. “K voprosu ob obrazovanii angliskoi natsii.” Voprosy istorii, 1951, no. 9.
Osipov, V. D. Britaniia, 60–e gody. Moscow, 1967.
Fleure, H. J. A Natural History of Man in Britain. London, 1951.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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