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British Culture 1

(2009-09-02 00:35:12)







分类: 黑白英伦风

1. Who Are the British?

    Although the United Kingdom covers only a small area of the earth's surface, it represents people of many different origins and cultures. Yet all of them are British. Indeed, it would be difficult to find anyone in modern Britain who could say with certainty that his ancestors had not come to the British Isles from somewhere else. Who, then, are today's Britons and what kind of people are they?


    The history of human habitation and settlement in Britain goes back to the Stone Age hunters and gatherers who arrived from the European continent about 10 000 years ago. The Neolithic peoples who followed them were settled agriculturatlists who kept domestic animals and knew how to make simple pottery. Around 2000 BC these Stone Age people started to erect huge monuments, or henges, of giant rock slabs, possibly for religious purposes. Work on the henges continued intermittently into the Bronze Age, until about 1500 BC. The most imposing and mysterious of these ancient monuments is Stonehenge, on windswept Salisbury plain in southwest England.

    人们移民和定居于不列颠的历史可以追溯到石器时代的游猎者及游牧寻食者,他们大约在10 000年前从欧洲大陆来到这里。继他们之后,新石器时代的人类移居于此并长于农耕,他们饲养家养牲畜,会制造简单的瓷器。公元前2000年左右,这些石器时代的人们开始用巨大的岩石板兴建大型纪念物或者石林,这些石林可能是用于膜拜。兴建石林的历程一直持续到大约公元前1500的青铜时代。在这些古老的建筑群中最为壮观和神秘的就是位于英格兰西南部受强风吹打的的索尔兹伯里平原上的巨石阵。

    Easy communication between the islands and the continental mainland must have existed and, from earliest times, this encouraged migration. By the end of the Bronze Age, around 700 BC, Celtic peoples had arrived from north-western Europe bringing with them a revolutionary new skill: iron-working. Celtic continued to come and settle in Britain for about 500 years and, by the time the Romans first landed in 55 BC, the Celtic culture was well established. The earliest written records of Britain's inhabitants come from the Romans who eventually conquered the various Celtic kingdoms then flourishing in England, Wales and the Scottish Lowlands.


The Scots

    The Scots, particularly the Highlanders form the mountainous north, try to maintain their separate identity. Like the Welsh, they object to being called 'English'. Their earliest known ancestors were the Picts and the Celts and the Gaelic language,still spoken in remote parts, comes from the ancient language of the Celtic tribes.


    The Scottish Highlander considers himself the 'true' Scot and he wears his national dress, the kilt, with pride. Kilts, pleated skirts made of material with a squared, coloured design called a tartan, probably derive from the costume of the Roman conquerors. Each Scottish clan (a Gaelic word for 'tribe' or 'family') has its own tartan with specific colours and design and only members of that clan are entitled to wear it. There are tartans for all the famous Scottish names like Campbell, MacLeod, Fraser, Gordon, Stuart and Macdonald ('Mac' or 'Mc', found in many Scottish names, means 'son of').


                       British <wbr>Culture <wbr>1


    The Highlanders are a proud, independent and hardy people who mainly live by farming sheep in the mountain areas; others, on the coasts and islands, are fishermen. Bur most Scots are Lowlanders, concentrated in the densely-populated towns and cities of southern Scotland. These urban areas are heavily industualized, with coal-mining, iron, steel, ship-building and textiles. Since the mid-1800s, there has been a constant flow of young men from the Highlands and country districts to Lowland indusruial centres where work opportunities are greater. In the last few years, however, the reverse has taken place: there has been a migration of labour back to the north-eastern coastal areas to well-paid jobs in the North Sea oil industry.


    The Scots have a reputation for being inventive, hardworking, serious-minded and cautious with money. In the past, they were pioneer settlers and empire builders in places like America, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. They have also provided the British Army with some of its most famous regiments. Over the centuries, enemy troops have often been terrified at the sight and sound of Highlanders in kilts marching into battle accompanied by the blood-curdling music of the bagpipes. Some even nicknamed the Scottish soldiers 'devils in skirts' and 'ladies from hell'.

  British <wbr>Culture <wbr>1             British <wbr>Culture <wbr>1


    Since the 1960s there has been consideable scottish nationalist agitation for a separate parliament or assembly which would give the Scots a greater say in the planning and running of their own affairs. In response, the British government held a referendum in Scotland at the beginning of 1979 to find out if the people really wanted their own assembly. The government promised that if 40 per cent of Scots eligible to vote did so, and if 60 per cent ro more of that vote was in faour of a separate Scottish assembly, then such an assembly would be set up. But result showed less than 40 per cent in favour so no further action was taken.


     Apart from their very distinctive national dress the Scots can be recognized by their particular style of speech and accent. Also, their vocabulary contains many words and expression_rs, often of ancient origin, which are unique to Scotland. Remember that they like to be called 'Scots' or 'Scottish' and not 'Scotch'. Scotch refers to the most famous of Scottish exports, whisky: the word' whisky' is derived from the Gaelic and means 'water of life'. The history and atmosphere of Scotland as well as the character of its people have been expertly portrayed by such famous Scottish writers as Robert Burns (1759-96), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94).


The Welsh

   The Welsh have been united with England since the 1535 Act of Union, but they are still very conscious of their separate Celtic heritage. Although the number of people who actually speak the Welsh language is declining (only 20 per cent in 1980), cultural pride in Wales is very srtong. The Welsh are famous for their love of music and poetry and they have developed choral singing to a national art. They also have a great feeling for the music of words: examples of their outstanding skill with language are found in the poetry of Dylan Thomas (1914-53) and in the political speeches of David Lloyd George (1863-1945).


    Officially Welsh (an ancient Celtic language, but different to Gaelic) has equal status with English in Wales, but in practice it is minority language. The Welsh National Party, which has members in the Westminster parliament, together with various pressure groups want more Welsh language and culture in schools, the media and in public life generally. But in spite of such nationalist tendencies, when the people of Wales voted in 1979 on the question of a separate Welsh assembly, very few were in favour. So, as in Scotland, the matter was dropped.


    The Welsh, like the Scots, fall into two groups: those--mostly sheep famers--from the mountainous regions of the centre and north; and those (two-thirds of the population) who live and work in the highly industrialized south where coal mining and steel manufacture are the main economic activities. At the beginning of this century, the South Wales coal fields were notorious for their low wages and appalling working and living conditions. But in 1946, the coal industry was nationalized; the mines were then modernized and conditions were improved. Today, the miners of South Wales are among the highest-paid workers in Britain.


    From the hard-working lives of these people, two very different passions have emerged: rugby football and choral singing. The occasion when the two come together most effectively is any international rugby match involving Wales. Before the match starts, it is traditional for the crowd of Welsh supporters to sing--always in perfect harmony--'Land of My Father', an old song that has almost become a notional anthem for Wales.

    Every year there are many festivals of music and verse in Wales. The most famous is the National Eisteddfod ( the Welsh word for ‘sitting') which takes place each August and lasts for about a week. The highlight of the Eisteddfod is a competition for the best epic poem about Wales written and read in Welsh; the winner is crowned Bard, considered the supreme honour in Wales.

    A Welshma can often be recognized by his name: it might be Jones, Williams, Thomas, Evans, Lloyd, Llewellyn, or begin with 'P' like Pritchard, Probert or Pryse (these are contractions of Ap Richard, Ap Rovert and Ap Rys; 'ap' is Welsh for 'son of').The Welsh are also easily indentified by the soft lilting, almost singing, way in which they speak English. Welsh life, attitude and character have been vividly illustrated in the works of such writers as Dylan Thomas, Gwyn Thomas (born 1913) and Richard Llewellyn (born 1970).


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