Iconic British Things (A Footnote)

Flag of the East India Company, suppliers of tea (among other things) to the British Empire

Everyone takes ownership of the things they love, to a greater or lesser extent. You listen to your favorite singer or watch your favorite TV show for long enough, and it feels like it belongs to you personally, never mind the fact that you had nothing to do with how it was created in the first place.

So it is with all culture. The things we claim as being unique signifiers of who we are as a nation (whether British, American or Swiss), are a hotchpotch of customs and items which will have come from all over the place. Some local, some very much not.

So, as a sidebar to our series about British things, here’s a song from the very British children’s historical sketch show Horrible Histories. It manages to not only detail some of the grim realities behind the rise of the British Empire, it also pokes a finger at the degree to which the Brits consider certain imported goods to be their divine property:

Although, if we’re losing tea and sugar, we’re keeping the Mini. And morris dancing… And Jaffa Cakes. Oh and talking about the weathe…tell you what. Let’s just continue as normal next week, shall we?

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2. He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage. Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic
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