The concept of an “English” nation is much older than that of the “British” nation and the 1990s witnessed a revival in English self-consciousness. Historian David Starkey explains this dichotomy in his award winning series on the Monarchy.
The English Monarchy – A Nation State
Although England is no longer an independent nation state, but rather a constituent country within the United Kingdom, the English may still be regarded as a nation according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition: a group united by factors that may include common ancestry, history, kinship, religion, language, shared territory or physical appearance. Members of an ethnic group are conscious of belonging to an ethnic group; moreover ethnic identity is further marked by the recognition from others of a group’s distinctiveness.
The concept of an English nation is much older than that of the “British” nation and the 1990s witnessed a revival in English self-consciousness. This is linked to the expressions of national self-awareness of the other British nations of Wales and Scotland and the waning of a shared British identity with the growing distance between the end of the British Empire and the present.
Recent migrants to England have assumed a solely British identity and the word ‘English’ is not commonly used to describe people of foreign ethnicities living in England. In their 2004 Annual Population Survey, the Office of National Statistics also compared the racial identities of the population with their perceived national identity. They found that while 58% of ‘White British’ people (as per census classification) described their nationality as English, the vast majority in all other categories called themselves British.