The uniqueness of the British as a people has long
been taken for granted by foreign observers and native commentators alike.
Visitors from overseas, from Venetian ambassadors in the late fifteenth
century, through intellectuals like Voltaire, to American journalists of the
twentieth century, have all been convinced of the special quality of British
society. This has been equally assumed by modern native chroniclers of the
British scene. But the nature or essence of the Britishness of the British is
far easier to proclaim than to explain. Some English characteristics upon which
both natives and visitors have tended to agree have to do with national
psychology: egoism, self-confidence, intolerance of outsiders, deep
suspiciousness towards their compatriots, ostentatious wealth, independence,
social mobility, love of comfort and a strong belief in private property.
Moderation, the avoidance of extremes, the choice of a middle way, are among
the essential qualities of Englishness. The two features of English life which
from the 15th I century onwards struck almost every observer were the country's
wealth and its strong sense of individualism.
The features that have shaped the British
distinctiveness were determined by the country's geographical isolation from
the European continent, with the consistent centrality of sea power and a broad
social fluidity in which the early collapse of feudalism helped generate a new
industry and commercial enterprise. The long centuries during which the land
was free from invaders meant that there could be a flowing culture continuity
from the time of Chaucer onwards impossible on the war-torn Continent. A political
and legal evolution is expressed in the English Parliament which has survived
in recognizable form till today, without those interruptions and periods of
absolute monarchy that have marked the history of its neighbours, and the rule
of law. There have been other significant features in the development of
England which mark it as a country to some degree separate from Europe. One of
the most important is the language. English is a language of unparalleled
richness, subtlety and variety, which unlocks' the treasures of a literature
second to none in the world. It is the easiest language to learn.
As for British history, it is not one of harmonious
continuity, broadening from epoch to epoch. It is a dramatic, colourful, often
violent story of an ancient society and culture torn apart by the political,
economic, and intellectual turmoil of human experience. Britain in many ways
has been the cockpit of mankind,
ambassador - посол
assume - допускать
self-confidence - самоуверенность
intolerance - нетерпимость
property - частная собственность
- социальная подвижность
уклонение (от чего-л. ), избежание
extreme - крайность
isolation - изоляция
invader - захватчик
continuity - непрерывность
1. What did visitors from overseas and native
chroniclers think about the British characteristic features?
2. Who has been convinced of the special quality of
3. What English characteristics have both natives and
visitors tended to agree upon?
4. What features of English life struck almost every
observer from the 15th century onwards?
5. What shaped the British distinctiveness?
6. What role did the language play in the development
7. How is the history of Britain characterized?
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