After June 23rd: the Peculiarities of the ‘Freeborn Englishman’

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2016 by kmflett


EP Thompson in the Making of the English Working Class discussed the ‘Freeborn Englishman’ the archetypal British patriot.

Thompson makes the point that the English patriot can be on the political left or the political right depending on the specific times and context.

He identifies some key characteristics. The first he notes is ‘freedom from foreign domination’ which in a modern context was a feature of the current EU Referendum campaign

Many others relate not to economic or social liberty but political liberty. These included, freedom from arbitrary arrest, trial by jury, equality before the law and freedom from the home being arbitrarily entered by the authorities.

Thompson also indicated the notion of some specific political freedoms around elections, free thought and speech and Parliamentary opposition.

The bottom line however was what Thompson called a ‘moral consensus’ of limits beyond which the patriotic Englishman would not be pushed. In short the Freeborn Englishman wanted the right to be ‘left alone’.

It was a constitutionalist individualism that perhaps did not and does not sit well with political collectivism and certainly not political change directed or imposed from above.

Disaffected Labour voters may well feel that things occur which make a significant impact on their lives but over which they have no personal control does fit into the historical sense of the ‘freeborn Englishman’. These people are not being ‘left alone’.

Two points in conclusion. The ‘freeborn Englishman’ was not unequivocally a figure of the right or the left. It depended on the times, the context and on political leadership.

Secondly it really is time for more research on the freeborn Englishwoman




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