GaWC Research Bulletin 12

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This Research Bulletin has been published in D Morley and K Robins (eds) (2001) British Cultural Studies: Geography, Nationality, and Identity Oxford: Oxford University Press, 127-44.

Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


Which Britain? Which England? Which North?

State, Nations, Regions, Cities ... and Globalization

P.J. Taylor

"If a dog bites a man in Bond Street, that's news; if a man bites a dog in Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Stoke-on-Trent, that is merely to be expected" - old Fleet Street dictum
(Hopkins 1957: 12).

"... all geographical locations in England are equal but some are more equal than others"
(Dodd 1986: 4)

"The City, the West End and Westminster are the boundaries of opinion-forming Britain"
(Adonis and Pollard 1997: 100)

To focus upon the geographical dimension within British politico-cultural studies is to court a melee of problematics. On the political side there are simple spatial images such as the 'North-South divide' but once the nuances of culture are added new layers of complexity are created. The result is that the politico-cultural spaces of Britain are confusing to both the British people in general and to those who study their collective quests for identity. In fact we can begin by problematizing the very idea of there being a 'British people' - certainly there is a segment of humanity who have (or will have when they reach the age of 18) the right to vote in United Kingdom general elections but this state citizenship cannot be translated automatically into a British nation who celebrate their 'Britishness'. In fact British national practices are most conspicuous in the unionist communities of Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK which is geographically outside of the island of Britain!

If not simply British, who are the natives of Great Britain? The reality is that when it comes to defining 'nations' you can pick any number between 1 and 7 to describe the constituent indigenous people(s) of the UK:

one nation - British (imperial and unionist view);
two nations - English and 'Celts' ('Anglo-Saxon' view);
three nations - English, Scottish, and Irish (Scottish view - see Steed (1986));
four nations - English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish (sometimes denoted WISE as anti-immigrant, extreme white view);
five nations - English, Welsh, Scottish, Ulster Unionists, and Irish Nationalists (all 'nations' explicitly represented in Parliament, except, of course, the English);
six nations - English, Cornish, Welsh, Scottish, Ulster Unionists, and Irish Nationalists (the Cornish nationalists have won some local political representation);
seven nations - 'Southern' or 'Real' English, 'Northern' English, Cornish, Welsh, Scottish, Ulster Unionists, and Irish Nationalists (for such a division of the English, see Osmond (1988))

Of course, these various 'nations' have variable contemporary credibility but in the modern cultural maelstrom none can be ignored.

This complex national stratification interacts with the simpler 'north-south' geographical model - which permeates so much popular and scholarly discourse on divisions of Britishness - to generate further conceptional tangles. The Home Counties are the focus point of this spatial configuration in a pattern of nested spaces at four geographical scales: (1) the Home Counties - London's metropolitan region - is formally part of (2) England, which is formally part of (3) Britain, which is formally part of the (4) the United Kingdom (was the British Isles, now Great Britain and Northern Ireland). The clarity of this conceptualisation is in the identification of the Home Counties as core-area; compared to other states it is a particularly comprehensive core, dominant politically, economically and culturally. However, given our nested spaces, which space is it that the Home Counties are core of - England, Britain or the United Kingdom? The answer to this question effects what is the North and can seed confusion. For instance, in his chapter entitled "The North-South Divide in England" Rob Shields (1991) uses the terms 'British North' and 'North of England' interchangeably - his north-south divide map (p. 209) includes Wales but not Scotland in the area shaded as 'British North'. In strictly locational terms, of course, the North of England is 'middle Britain', the area between the English core and Scottish border (Taylor, 1993).

Much of the geographical confusion inherent in Britishness stems from a particularly dominant conception of Englishness which Colls and Dodd (1986) have shown was only constructed between 1880 and 1920. In this essay I explore the question as to whether this century-old, imperial politico-cultural outcome is ripe for revision under contemporary conditions of globalization - is 1980-2020 to be another watershed for Britishness as profound as the imperial one? If this is indeed the case then this is a period of fundamental politico-cultural choice for the citizens of the UK. Hence the argument of this essay is organised through three questions ordered by geographical scale: which Britain?, which England?, which North? In the first section I discuss the 'English presumption' which equates just part of Britain with its whole; the second section deals with the 'rural presumption' which idealises villages are as the essential England; and the third section treats the monolithic presumption which treats 'the North' as a singular and inferior region. Each section concludes with a fin de siècle challenge to these 'traditional' positions: devolution, Cool Britannia and shopping malls respectively. Since this is a argument about choices, the essay concludes with my own politico-cultural preference in a discussion of which world? Under conditions of contemporary globalization, I promote a very different geography of identity, not territorialist but city-centred in a global and European space of flows.

Before I embark on this questioning there are two important disclaimers I have to make. First, I will not be dealing with the United Kingdom as a whole, clearly the cultural and political issues surrounding the contested location of Northern Ireland in the UK is a distinctive topic in its own right which deserves many more words than I would be able to allocate to it here. Second, as readers may have guessed by my listing of possible 'indigenous nations' above, the multiculturalism consequent upon 'the empire coming to Britain' is not addressed until a final brief discussion of a fin de siècle opportunity offered by cosmopolitian cities.


England, it has been said, has too much history (Grainger, 1986: 12). This intriguing observation makes the English the obverse of Eric Wolf's (1982) description of non-Europeans as 'people without history'. Putting to one side exactly why the English might be in this particular privileged position, we can add a further complicating fact: there is one prominent European people without history: the British! Obviously there is some compensation going on here; the surfeit of English history is in lieu of the lack of British history. It seems the British created the largest empire in the world but somehow failed to create a British history to accompany it. Instead, English history flourished and assumed the mantle of the necessary historical backcloth for imperialism: it was the 'expansion of England' that led to the British Empire. Only recently - since the political rise of non-English nationalisms in the 1970s - has this geographical anomaly been seriously addressed with the beginning of a new school of explicitly 'British history' (Grant and Stringer, 1995; Taylor, 1997a). All this is symptomatic of what J. H. Grainger (1986: chapter 4) calls 'the English presumption'.

As the largest component of Britain, especially in population and wealth, England, in many foreign languages and in English itself, is commonly taken to mean the whole of Britain. For instance, on August 14th, 1914, newspapers reported "ENGLAND DECLARES WAR ON GERMANY" (Grainger, 1986: 50). This was during the premiership of Viscount Asquith on whose gravestone it states "Prime Minister of England, 1908-1916". Actually there has never been a Prime Minister of England; the office of Prime Minister only evolved after England disappeared as an independent political entity through union with Scotland in 1707. It is testament to the power of the English presumption that this early twentieth century, Scottish-born, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland could be posthumously celebrated as the political leader of just part of his realm. Of course, such geographical errors are never neutral. The English presumption - in Bernard Crick's (1997: 15) words, treating 'English as the adjectival form of citizenship of the United Kingdom' - turns the Scots, Welsh and Irish into invisible peoples, hidden by an everyday political lexicon (Haseler, 1996: 31).

Formally the relationship between Britain and England is quite straightforward: the former defines a state, the latter one of its constituent nations. In reality, however, the situation is usually confused. One rare piece of evidence on comparative uses of British and English can be found in the "Britain in Pictures" series (published in the 1930s and 1940s by Collins). In Table 1 books are classified by their titles in terms of whether their subject matter is designated as British or English, e.g. British Sport and English Cricket. Of the original 89 titles, four have no place designation, two refer to London, two to Scotland with one each for Wales and Ireland leaving 79 divided between Britain and England in the ratio 48 to 31. But the interesting point is that the balance between English and British varies greatly by subject matter. British is more represented in environmental (as an island) and state topics as might be expected but the intriguing area is in cultural matters where the balance is even. Visual and intellectual cultural persons tend to be British, language and artistic cultural persons tend to be English. But the latter is particularly conspicuous with matters pertaining to home: country houses, gardens, garden flowers, at table, and of course, women and children are all 'English'. Hence. although the people are 'British' in Table 1, many of the key traditional attributes for national self-identity are 'English'.

The basis for these British-English distinctions can be found in the historical cultural politics of Britain. With the formation of Great Britain in 1707, the Scots entered the union as 'north British' but the idea of the English as 'south British' was never a starter. In the eighteenth century the English resisted the use of the name Britain to replace England in international affairs (Colley, 1992: chapter 3) but gradually a modus operandi evolved whereby Britain became accepted for most foreign purposes - relations with an external Other - but with little or no domestic implications. This remarkable political achievement was made possible because '(t)he British polity refrained from major internal enterprises (and) did not press definitions of identity' (Grainger, 1986: 52-3) resulting in a state 'cultural politics' which patronises the non-English (Crick, 1997: 15). That is to say, the English presumption may be insidious but it has remained just what it says it is, a presumption not a dictate.

The result of this cultural politics is a confusing mixture of national identities. Outside of England, dual identities have been constructed, so that, for instance, Scottish identity exists alongside British identity; a person may call themselves 'Scottish and British'. But the equivalent phrase 'English and British' has no meaning since, for the English, to be English is to be British (Osmond, 1988). This has been called a fused identity and provides the cultural underpinning of the English presumption. This fusion is hardly a conscious adoption; in a recent interview with Richard Hoggart asking him about his identity he admits to being 'puzzled by the difference for an Englishman between Englishness and Britishness' (Anon, 1997). If such an outstanding social thinker about England and the English as Hoggart is perplexed we can begin to appreciate just how deep in English culture the fused identity lies. Many other examples of such confusion could be quoted. Perhaps the most notorious is that of Raphael Samuel (1989) in his monumental survey of patriotism who tells us in the preface of a late decision to change the 'patria' from England to Britain - it is hard to imagine anyone other than an English person not being sure what to call his or her nation (Taylor, 1991: 147). We can conclude that there is an important identity divide in Britain, not just in terms of national identities, but also in the manner in which Britishness is handled.

Fin de siècle challenge: devolution. Contemporary constitutional reforms are undermining the English presumption. Devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provides political identities to their respective cultural distinctive characters. This process is not particularly new 'home rule all round' was part of the Liberal solution to Irish resistance to British incorporation from 1885. The failure of this policy with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 put the issue of Scottish and Welsh political autonomy on the back-burner until the rise of their respective nationalist parties in the 1970s. Ironically the result of devolution is that the English presumption has politically back-fired: in the new multinational state only the English have no parliament or assembly of their own the Scots, Welsh and Irish MPs in Westminster can vote on many English matters where English MPs cannot reciprocate because power has moved to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.


It has not gone unnoticed that the English do not have a 'homeland' as such, rather they have the Home Counties, a corner of the country masquerading as representative of the whole. This reflects the tendency towards exclusiveness in the practices of Englishness (Haseler, 1996). Unlike other nationalism where ideology and actions promote the inclusiveness we call nation- building, Englishness has never been a typical form of national identity because it has been intrinsically linked to class divisions. In this way exclusivity has been central to the formation of Englishness. The classic example is in the use of language where, unlike other nations who use language to unify, English accents are all important to differentiate hierarchically. At the top is RP (received pronunciation, otherwise known as 'posh English' or BBC English), the English spoken by the Home Counties' upper classes who constitute about 3% of the population but wield an exorbitant amount of power (McCrum et al., 1992: 3-8). This very real association with power means that in England we have language schools to teach English speaking to English people - elocution lessons are sold on the understanding that social and economic advancement depends on how you sound! But, it is almost certainly the case that if you need elocution lessons it is too late, real power derives from attending exclusive public schools with their well-trodden pathways into the ancient universities, the guards and the City. All of this is very class-selective as are the prime summer haunts where the 'English' need to be seen: Royal Ascot, the Henley Regatta, Wimbledon, the Lord's Test, Cowes Week, Epsom Derby Day and Glynebourne. These social events are all highly concentrated geographically in the Home Counties, a throwback to the 'Season' when aristocratic families visited their London homes. And at the centre of this social whirl is the monarchy residing officially in Buckingham Palace and relaxing at the family home, Windsor Castle. Tom Nairn (1988) calls this world the Crown Heartland, a social realm which is distinct and separate from most of England and the vast majority of the English but, nevertheless, has taken on Englishness as its mantra.

Behind this social structure there is an England of villages, a presumption that everything good about England is rural. This is the great irony of the Englishness constructed a century ago: a rural make-over for the most urbanised country in the world (Hawkins, 1986). In H. V. Moreton's (1927: xi) phrase, the English village is still 'the unit of development' behind Britain's greatness, the necessary spiritual underpinning of England. This has created a unique national image which excludes most of the people, the non-rural. Furthermore this rural idyll has a specific regional setting: the thatched cottages and village greens are most definitely not in the north of England. For the latter there is the space myth which Shields (1991: chapter 5) has described: excluded England as the 'Land of the Working Class', industrial, urban and northern. This was the geographical outcome of the industrial revolution being reinterpreted as an historical aberration, quintessentially unEnglish (Wiener, 1981; Taylor, 1996).

There is a real sense in which this excluded England is England's Other (Taylor, 1993). The exclusive Englishness of the twentieth century has developed precisely to eliminate the dirty, unpalatable working parts of England from influence and power using class leadership to define the nature of English nationalism to be the very opposite of the experiences of the majority of the English people. This unique national project has therefore succeeded in defining national Self in opposition to an internal national Other. In so doing it has dismissed most of the English as second-rate people living in second-rate places in their own country (Horne, 1970: 37-8). From being the land of the future in the mid-nineteenth century (Taylor, 1996), the North was relegated to a working adjunct, necessary in war but otherwise to be looked down upon. There is a wonderful example of this in H. V. Morton's (1942) I Saw Two Englands. Written to contrast pre-war England with war-time England, the book unintentionally tells us much more about differences in space than of time: it is the geographical differences which most conspicuously define his 'two Englands'. A total of 187 pages are devoted to describing his 1939 summer trip from Kent (as 'Garden of England') in a circle to Northamptonshire (as an 'agricultural shire') via Sussex, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire. The monarchy, aristocracy and church feature greatly in stories of great buildings used as historical stages for stories of English heroes and heroines. This is the 'pre-war England' which needs saving from foreign invasion. There are 84 pages on his 1939 autumn trip which goes west, and then up through the Midlands to the North. Because of wartime restrictions locations are less precise but in the west he visits an aircraft factory, a flying school, a naval base and a tank exercise on Salisbury Plain. In the 'dreary, red-brick, industrial Midlands, a region always hideous and deformed' (p. 238) he visits factories making tanks, shells and anti-aircraft guns. In the 'North country' which is a 'queer country' and found to be 'strange' (p. 251) he visits a munitions factory, a large shipyard and a fishing port. This is Morton's 'war-time England' inhabited by 'the average provincial' (p. 232) gearing up to protect 'pre-war England' with its surfeit of history. Going into several editions, this popular war-time book put the 'two Englands' firmly into their respective places.

Fin de siècle challenge: 'Cool Britannia'. In a speech in1993 John Major evoked rural England ("old maids cycling to holy communion through the morning mist") in a way which recalled his prime ministerial predecessor Stanley Baldwin's famous speech on England in 1924 ("the corncrake on a dewy morning") (Paxman, 1999: chapter 9). The 1997 election ushered in a new government of self-ascribed modernizers for which the tradition rural presumption had no attraction at all. Instead we have the idea of 'Cool Britannia', the very opposite of traditional, at the cutting edge of new styles and fashions in a high tech world. This political conflict is reflected in the elimination of hereditary (largely rural landowning) peers in the House of Lords and the plans to abolish hunting by hounds. The fact that the British beef industry could be almost destroyed by incompetent government with hardly a protest while foxhunters were able to mobilise hundreds of thousands to march through London illustrates the importance of the 'cultural' as opposed to the 'economic' in the construction of the traditional English countryside.


Following Edward Said's (1978) logic for European construction of the 'Orient', we can identify a southern English construction of the 'North': this was the process whereby industrial Britain was 'northernised' as an inferior place. This external scripting means that 'no coherent "north country" has been invented in its own right: it exists mainly in contrast to southern England' (Paxman, 1998: 157). One implication of this is that regional political assertion as traditionally conceived may not be the best way of returning cultural dignity back to middle Britain. As a regional label, the North (or North East or North West) has no meaning except with respect to the rest of England, it is a compass point not a people. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when questions of regional autonomy or devolution are discussed there is confusion as to exactly what the North refers to geographically. In the 1991 'English Regional Government' debate in the House of Commons, for example, it was the North which dominated proceedings but there was no agreement on such basic matters as where were its boundaries, where was its 'capital city', and whether there was one 'big' North or several 'little' norths (Hansard, 1991; Taylor, 1993). As these MPs, largely from northern English constituencies, debated, an outsider might well wonder whether there really was such a place as the North.

Within Englishness the North has been constructed as a simple monolithic concept. The North=industry equation drew a curtain across the country and hid the great contemporary variety of landscapes which make up middle Britain: the Don Valley and the Lake District provide typical contrasts. Of course when the cultural curtain was opened to (southern) English visitors they shielded their eyes from the industry and saw only pre-industrial historical sites (Taylor, 1991). In his immensely popular In Search of England, H. V. Moreton (1927; 24 reprints to 1937, and published as a Penguin paperback as late as 1960) purposively 'skirts Black England' (p. 181) in order to see 'the real north' (p. 207) of ancient cities (Chester, Durham, York) and countryside where 'monster towns and cities of the north of England are a mere speck in the amazing greenness of England' (p. 186). But the North is much more than this 'black versus real' English duality. It is largely made up of great nineteenth century cities which have spent much of the twentieth century trying to come to terms with the decline of their industrial base. This is the real 'real north' as experienced by the vast majority of people who have lived and continue to live in middle Britain, not that 'real north' embodied in the southern search for something comfortably like themselves in an alien land.

It seems to me that any construction of new geographies of identity to challenge 'inferior, monolithic North' must begin with the 'mere specks', the great modern cities of middle Britain which have been the prime geographical victims of traditional twentieth century Englishness. In this new geographical imagination an amorphous northern region gives way to a land of city regions centred on Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford, Sheffield, Hull, Middlesbrough, Preston and Carlisle. This is a world of 'multiple norths' which derives from the geohistorical development of the area as specialist production complexes during the industrial revolution. Each city and its hinterland developed their own industrial character as they supplied the world market with different mixes of manufactures. Blanket designation as the North has not created a new homogeneity: Liverpool is as different from Manchester today as it has ever been. This variety has continued to be recognised in literature and art which focuses upon 'working class heroes' but it is all lost in the prime image of the North as England's internal 'Other'.

Of course, Englishness was invented precisely to subvert the image of a land of cities. Behind the rural anti-industrialism there lay an antithesis to cities as centres of power and culture. As Paxman (1998: 162) notes: 'Having invented the modern city, not only did the English monied élite recoil in horror, they pretended it had nothing to do with them'. Hence, Paxman goes on to argue, there has been no development in the twentieth century of an 'English urban tradition' (p. 174). He quotes D. H. Lawrence:

'The English character has failed to develop the real urban side of a man, the civic side. Sienna is a bit of a place, but it is a real city, with citizens intimately connected with the city. Nottingham is a vast place sprawling towards a million, and it is nothing more than an amorphous agglomeration. There is no Nottingham, in the sense that there is Sienna. The Englishman is stupidly undeveloped as citizen' (p. 165)

For industrial-Midland Nottingham read any northern town or city. There was, of course, a civic tradition which developed in the cities of industrial Britain - the great Victorian town halls, city parks and public hospitals remain as monuments to this era - but that was before the rural makeover of England which has dominated the twentieth century.

Seeing middle Britain as a land of cities immediately subverts the space myth of the North as the Land of the Working Class. Cities define functional not homogeneous regions: city regions are socially coherent entities inclusive of all classes not uniform lower class ghettos. Hence simplistic North-South divide rhetoric is undermined by the existence of affluent northern city suburbs such as 'comfortable Didsbury' and 'handsome Hallam' (Shields, 1991: 239) for the simple reason that all the major cities have their 'little Surreys' - this is how Tynesiders refer to their poshest housing estate, Darras Hall. But the affluence of these cities has reached far beyond these few richest places in functional city regions.

Fin de siècle challenge: consumer modernity. In a recent survey of British shopping centres ranked in terms of turnover, Oxford Street London is listed second behind Tyneside's Metro Centre (Hetherington, 1996). This triumph for an out-of-town shopping mall is a reflection of the Americanization of British everyday life but it also tells us about the transformation of northern cities (for consumer Newcastle, see Davis, 1991). There are other successful malls - Meadowhall and Trafford Centre near Sheffield and Manchester respectively - as well as vibrant shopping centres in Newcastle (Eldon Square), Leeds (with its 'exclusive' Harvey Nichols men's store) and a redeveloped Manchester (courtesy of the IRA). As consumer modernity has replaced industrial modernity throughout the western world, the old North-South divide looks more and more like a parochial British obsession with an old myth. The contemporary Blairite political project can be interpreted as representing consumers, both north and south.


Devolution, Cool Britannia and shopping malls each in their different ways have recently undermined the image and nature of the Britain, the England and the North bequeathed by late Victorian and Edwardian forebears. But to understand fully the processes involved in these transformations we need to look outside the bounds of the UK at what is happening in the wider world. The three challenges identified above at this fin de siècle are each constituents of wider social forces which have come to be called globalization. A highly integrated world-economy combining global production with global consumption based upon global exchange, distribution and communication has created opportunities for some, difficulties for many, and disasters for the rest. Generally speaking, as part of the core zone of the world-economy, UK has experienced more than its fair share of opportunities. This is most obviously the case for London and the Home Counties.

With New York and Tokyo, the City of London is one of the three great financial centres of the contemporary world-economy. Beyond banking and finance there are an additional range of advanced producer services (e.g. accountancy, commercial law) which constitute global cities (Sassen, 1991). Working in a global labour market, practitioners and professionals providing global city services have commanded 'global salaries' - levels of pay previously associated only with the 'stars' of that precocious global industry, Hollywood films. There was a time when millionaires were measured by their total assets, today salaries and bonuses adding up to more than a million pounds a year are commonplace in the City. Adonis and Pollard (1997) term these people the new 'Super Class'.

In other countries, the Super Class may be geographically spread as in Germany and the USA within their numerous global or world cities but in Britain London completely dominates - Adonis and Pollard estimate that 'upwards of three-quarters of the 8,500 top private sector earners' work in or are associated with the City. This concentration of wealth and economic power means that London is probably more dominant in the UK today than even when it was the imperial capital of the largest empire ever constructed (p. 100). However, as before

'Britain beyond the Home Counties does not feature on its collective horizon; yet within that narrow sphere, the size of the Super Class is sufficiently large for it to have equipped itself with a highly developed infra-structure of private schools, hospitals and leisure facilities' (p. 100)

Same pattern but a different process: the Home Counties were the home-base for the British Empire, now they are a home-pad for servicing global capital.

What does this mean for the rest of England and Britain? I have previously argued that there is a sense in which the UK may not be large enough to accommodate both London and England (Taylor, 1997b). There are many circumstances where the City of London's global interests might well be at deviance with those of the rest of the country. Are we leading towards the curious situation where the capital city is the enemy within!? This is where the North, and indeed England and Britain in general, viewed as a land of many cities is so important. As the capital city, London was always an exception to the blanket condemnation of things urban within Englishness. Afterall it was the central place around which the 'Season' unfolded every summer. Globalization thus far has favoured London and Cool Britannia has been a truly metropolitan phenomenon but the consumer revolution shows that Britain's provincial cities have not been immune to the recent development of a highly integrated world-economy. The question is, how can these lower-tier cities of Britain compete with global London?

Most resistances to globalization has been cultural, invoking national particularity against a supposed universal globalism as represented, for instance, by the role of the English language in global media. National political mobilisation is typically territorial in nature, using boundaries to resist transnational processes. It seems to me that this spatial strategy is inappropriate for the Britain beyond the Home Counties core. It is not just that there can be little language resistance in the UK (even in the 'Celtic' nations English is easily the majority language) but territorial organisation may in fact be intrinsically counter-productive for such a highly urbanised population. Alongside the tradition spaces of territories, globalization promotes new spaces of flows in what Castells (1996) calls a network society. At one level this is a world city network within which a European city network is nested with London at its apex. And it is at this continental level that the emergence of competition between alternative spatial configurations is occurring as network versus territorial strategies.

This competition is expressed as a choice between a Europe of Regions and a Europe of Cities. It is best illustrated in north east Spain where Catalonia and Barcelona are embarked on quite different geographical strategies (Morata, 1997). After the Catalonian regional government eliminated its major political rival, the Barcelona metropolitan authority, in 1988, the city of Barcelona devised a city-based strategy called the C6 network linking Barcelona to five other cities (Montpellier, Palma de Mallorca, Toulouse, Valencia and Zaragoza). In contrast Catalonia has set up a western Mediterranean Euro-region, a contiguous cross-border territory including Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. The C6 network and the Euro-region are alternative tendencies in the contemporary reshaping of European space (Morata, 1997: 297). In general, with the Maastricht Treaty setting up the Committee of Regions the territorialist strategy has a head start over the Euro-cities approach but, in contradiction to this, contemporary forces of globalization would seem to privilege a space of flows in a world city network. The balance between these two forms of space in the reshaping of Europe, and with it Britain, is yet to be decided.

In Britain, this choice of spaces is epitomised by two campaigns for constitutional change: the City Region Campaign and the Campaign for a Northern Assembly. The former campaigns for a middle layer of government which is city-centred, the latter for an assembly for the official Northern Region. This is a territory defined by central government consisting of the five most northern counties of England. It is not at all clear how any new sense of identity can be developed in an area whose main communality seems to be remoteness from the state officials who defined it (Elcock, 1997: 430). The alternative for this area is three city regions (based upon Carlisle, Newcastle and Middlesbrough) reflecting the spatial organisation of the lives of the people who live in the region. My preference for this city solution is based in part from the fact that urbanised Britain developed in a past space of flows defined by free trade and imperialism and declined precisely when designated in territorialist terms as the monolithic North. But the important questions relate to the present and the future.

London is building a position at the apex of a world city network which will include, within the European sector of the world-economy, Paris and Frankfurt and possibly one or two other cities such as Milan and Berlin. This apex will not exist at the top of a simple city hierarchy as some have suggested, rather there will be a complex network of niches and layers with cities finding their unique locations in the new information-led world-economy. But will the apex cities rule this arrangement in the sense that their interests prevail? With London, Paris and Berlin aboard, it would seem we could expect little resistance from the three strongest European states. But what of the other cities? London versus Newcastle or Manchester is no contest but co-operation between cities in different strata could well even things up politically. Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds, with Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh might find they had common interest with the likes of Bordeaux and Marseilles, Cologne and Stuttgart, Seville and Valencia, Venice and Turin, and so on, against London and the rest of the apex. Such leagues of cities might create a very new European balance of power in a world space of flows.

Fin de siècle opportunity: cosmopolitan cities. With cities to the fore, cosmopolitan identities can again begin to rival national identities. The world of global cities is also the world of global diasporas leading to multiple layers of identity with state, national, regional, diasporic and city identities all available. In the case of the English and their British state, the rural English presumption has acted as a geographical exclusion to non-white citizens, concentrated in cities and with no historical link to the idealised English landscape (Kinsman, 1995). A multicultural Britain needs to identify with its cities.


Hasseler, S. (1996), The English Tribe (London).
This provides a comprehensive survey of the perculiarities of the English and their Englishness and emphasizes the need for fundamental political change.

Osmond, J. (1988), The Divided Kingdom (London).
With chapters on all the major 'nations' of the UK including the northern English, this volume represents the political and cultural concerns which emanated from the rediscovery of the north-south divide in the 1980s.

Paxman, J. (1998), The English. A Portrait of a People (London)
A comprehensive review of traditional Englishness and its current crisis of identity. Good on the absurdities and contradictions in this most unusual nationalism, the author nevertheless is optimistic for its future.

Shields, B. (1991) Places on the Margin (London).
This important book attempts to locate place at the centre of social theory and uses the 'space-myth' of the North of England as one example to illustrate his thesis.

Taylor, P. J. et al. (1993) Political Geography Debate No. 5: The Break-up of England (Political Geography, Vol. 12: 136-55).
This comprises a lead paper on 'the meaning of the North' followed by six comments and reply to provide a variety of views on the position of the North in the UK.


Adonis, A. and Pollard, S. (1997) A Class Act. The Myth of Britain's Classless Society. London: Hamish Hamilton

Anon (1997). 'Just who do you think you are?'. The Observer, July 20: 17

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell

Colley, L. (1992) Britons: Forging a Nation, 1707-1837. London: Pimlico

Colls, R. and Dodd, P. (1986). Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920. London: Croom Helm

Crick, B. (1997), 'The English and the others'. The Times Higher, May 2: 15

Davis, J. (1991). 'Letter from Tyneside, in the semiperiphery of the semicore: a UK experience', Review, 14: 437-49

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Table 1:


BRITISH ........... ENGLISH ...........

A. 'Natural' phenomenon

Horses Weather
Birds Landscape
Wild flowers
Wild life
Marine life
Insect life

B. State and state-wide institutions

Government Bible
Statesmen Church
Rebels and reformers Social services
Trade unions Education
Seaman Public schools
Merchant adventurers
Postage stamps
In the air 
Red Cross

C. Cultural institutions and practices

Dramatists Poets
Romantic artists Novelists
Portrait painters Letter writers
Cartoonists Music
Photographers Ballet
Historians At table
Orientalists Country houses
Philosophers Gardens
Scientists Inns
Medicine Villages
Botanists Cities and small towns 
Journalists Sporting pictures
Clubs Water colour painters
Polar explorers Cricket
Mountaineers Pottery and china
Sport Books
Maps and mapmakers Essayists
Craftsmen Popular/ traditional art
Furniture makers Women
Drawings Children
People Life
Early Garden flowers

D. Economic practices

Sea fishermen Farming
Railways Rivers and canals
Ports and harbours

{Note that England/Britain is already 'deindustrialized'!}

Edited and posted on the web on 28th July 1999

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in D Morley and K Robins (eds) (2001) British Cultural Studies: Geography, Nationality, and Identity Oxford: Oxford University Press, 127-44