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National and Regional Identities

by Adam Dalton, British Council, Warsaw

With the devolving of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the political focus in the UK is now upon the unique aspects of regional cultures within the UK - rather than upon the aspects common to all the regional cultures. In terms of culture, it must be healthier to celebrate what is unique about ourselves than to suppress it (especially in a democracy that purports to be built upon the freedom of the individual).

One question that might be of some concern, however, is where this process of devolution will end. After Scotland and Wales, will power then be devolved to the individual regions within England, Scotland and Wales? Will Yorkshire one day have its own Parliament? Will East Anglia one day have its own national football team?

The chances of such a regional-type devolution are not as remote as you might think; for certainly the regions of England all have their own healthy, individual cultures, complete with unique accents, dialects, customs, traditional dishes and history. Some might say the regions of England have more to distinguish them from each other than they have in common.

And within a European context, such devolution would not stand out as an exception. The USSR has fragmented, as has Yugoslavia. The Czech and Slovak Republics have divided from each other. Chechnya seeks to pull away from Russia. The Basque country seeks to pull away from Spain. Historically Switzerland has always been a federation of cantons with their own laws. Historically, Italy is a country made up of city-states.

So, how far will this process continue? How distinct are the regional cultures of Britain really?

Pre-reading task

Before reading, you may wish to consider some of the following questions about Poland. See if you can think of any examples.

  1. Do different parts of Poland speak different languages?
  2. Do different parts of Poland have different accents?
  3. Do different regions have their own dialects (any unique vocabulary)?
  4. Do different regions have their own style of traditional dress?
  5. Do different areas have their own history (certain parts may have been invaded in the past where others were not)?
  6. Do different parts of Poland have their own traditional dishes?
  7. Do different areas have their own economy?
  8. Do different parts have any of their own systems of government?
  9. Are people from different regions of Poland often said to have differing character traits?
  10. Would you like to see Poland break up into smaller states? Why/why not?

As you read

See if you can find answers to the questions as far as the regions of Britain are concerned. You will find the all necessary information in our Identity Within the Countries and Regions of Britain.

Produced in Poland by British Council (c) 2003. The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.