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    Civilisation Britannique



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  •  Topic 1. State and Nation

    • British Civilisation

         > Britain is an imprecise term. Which part of the island ? So the full proper name is « The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ». As on the map right here :

    As on the map right here :

         > What we can call Great Britain is the UK minus the Northern Ireland :

    Topic 1. State and Nation

         > So the UK is composed of countries, it's a country made of countries... Weird ? So another term for that ? → State. A state is « an autonomous political entity with its own government ». It needs a territory (a land we can see on a map), political institutions, and an international recognition (you can be recognized as a member of a state for example, passport). In federal regime like in USA, USA is a state, but its subdivisions too (ex : Texas state).
         > So is the UK a state ? They have Westminster, the UK parliament, and the other things mentioned earlier are okay too. So yes, the UK is a state.
         > Is England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland a state ? No. They don't have the autonomy and the international recognition.
         > So the UK is a state made of... ?
    Nation ? It's much more subjective. A nation is « an imagined community » according to Benedict Anderson. It's a feeling of community. Feel to be a part of the same country. « A rich legacy of memories », « the desire to live together » (Ernest Renan). A nation has to have some things in common : it could be anything, common language, religion, history, culture, values,... Or even all of them. For example, France is a nation-state. The UK has a common language, but the 4 component parts are 4 separated communities, 4 « Home nations ». UK is not a nation state : it's a state including 4 nations, so a multinational state or supranational state.


    • National Symbols

    > The English flag is the Union Jack (1801). It's a flag composed of the England's flag (St George's cross), the Scotland's flag (St Andrew's cross) and the Northern Ireland's flag (St Patrick's cross). The Wales' flag is not a part of it. In 1950 Ireland separated in 2 parts : they now have 2 different flags. Things have changed but the UK's flag stayed the same.

    Topic 1. State and Nation

    > Symbols.
    England is symbolized by a rose, Scotland by a thistle (chardon), Wales by a leek (poireau) or a daffodil, and Northern Ireland by a flax (fleur de lin). For example the Supreme Court's symbol is a combination of these symbols :

    Topic 1. State and Nation

    Other symbols : Britannia (on 50 pence for example), John Bull (country farmer, wealthy, arrogant), and the Monarch (“God save the Queen” is focused on a monarch).


    • Anglo-Saxons and the “Celtic Fringe”

    > Neolithic settlement : Stonehenge 2500 BC.
    > Celts from 800 BC. > Romans 48 AD-5th C. (Julius Caesar and Roman Britain, Hadrian's Wall 122 AD).
    > Angles, Saxons, Jutes 5th-7th

    Topic 1. State and Nation
    > Vikings 8th C.

    Topic 1. State and Nation

    > William the Conqueror

    Topic 1. State and Nation

    > Language. People speak English. But in Ireland some people speak Celtic, in Scotland and Wales a little % of the population speak their own language.

    > Geography. Population is concentrated in the richer areas. The biggest cities are in England. There is 62 million inhabitants in the UK : 52m in England, 5m in Scotland, 3m in Wales, and 2m in Northern Ireland. There is a strong dominance of England, which is so much bigger.


    • Multinational and multiethnic

         > 10% of the population is non-white : 2m of “Asian”, 500,000 of West Indian and some other minorities. Principally immigrants from former UK's colonies.
         > Race and national identity. For some England is the country of only pure English (“England, land of the English”), for others England has an historical diversity “The British are not a race, but a gathering of countless difference races and communities” (Robin Cook, 2001, Labour Party).


    BOOK : Chapter 1 : The UK, esp. pages 6-13
                pages 239-242

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  •  Topic 2. England and Political Union


    • In what way the UK is united ?

    > A United Kingdom ? → A monarchy, it's a Kingdom.

    • Middle Ages → there is 2 kingdoms : → Kingdom of England, and Kingdom of Scotland. Then form a unified Kingdom. More or less they correspond to the Kingdom we have today.

    • 16th C.

      → Kingdom of England (Elisabeth I) :

      - Wales, “Principality”. Becomes a territory ruled by a Prince of England (the eldest son).

      - King of Ireland, 1541 (Henri VIII) → The English come and take the title.

      → Kingdom of Scotland (James VI). As Elizabeth I, Queen of England, had never been married, there is a problem of succession. So in 1603 when she died her closest family had to become the monarch : it's the son of her cousin, James VI, a.k.a.the king of Scotland. So James VI becomes King of England too and change his name for James I (because there were no James before in the history of Kings of England). It's the union of Crowns, a little beginning for the « Great Britain ». England and Scotland share a single monarch but they remain two kingdoms.


    > Acts of Unions.

    • Acts of Union : Wales

      → 1284 Statute of Wales (Edward I)

      → 1536/1543 Acts of Union (Henry VIII) passed by the English Parliament which literally annex Wales : it's no longer exist as a political identity, Wales is England now.

    • Acts of Union : Scotland

      → War of Independence : William Wallace leads it.

      → 1314 Bannock burn. The Scotland win. Scotland is recognized as a Kingdom → 2 separates countries, religions,...

      → 1707 Act of Union passed by 2 parliaments (Scotland and England) for a new political parliament. Both parliaments disappear for create a new one : British Parliament. « Great Britain » is borne. They created the UK parliament, the Westminster. The power is concentrated in London., but there is not two parliaments anymore.

    • Acts of Union : Ireland.

      Colonization. 12th C., 16th -17th C (waves of colonization). Two opposing forces : Irish and British. There is a religious distinction between the Irish Catholics and the English Protestants. Revolt by the Irish, repression by the British.

      → 1801 Act of Union, to stop the Irish insurrection.

      → The United Kingdom is created.

      1920 Partition : Northern Ireland (protestant) and Irish Free State (catholic), which gets its own flag :

    • Britishness = British Identity

    • England = Strong English Kingdom. And England domination is during in time. A new country is formed : the UK. We perhaps still confuse England and UK, because England is the most dominant country in the UK. In term of national identity it's a problem.


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  •  Topic 3 : Devolution in Scotland and Wales

    With the UK came the concentration of political power = Westminster. There is a single British parliament, so the power leaves the periphery: Scotland loses its parliament.

    Is that a stable situation ? Are they satisfied to no longer have a political representation ?


    • 19th C. - Early 20th C. “Home Rule”. Some examples of dissatisfaction from Scotland. Some voices who requests some “Home Rules” rather they have a centralized power they should have some representatives in the UK. They are also appear in Wales.

      → We should have a degree of representation in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland,...

      Wales rediscover a little identity of their own after long years beeing England's.

      The sense of Union is strong. In the 20th C. we have social reforms (social, health care,...). Creation of a British identity (media: BBC).

    • Nationalist parties:

    • SNP (Scotish National Party), 1934. They are not anti-immigration but independentist. They are not agree with the centralized power and the poor representation of their country.

    • Plaid Cymru (Welsh National Party), 1925. They simply with to insure that Wales keep, preserves its culture (language,...).

      The dominant position is Union at the moment. The support for these parties is really low.

    • 1960s the sense of a Union is stronger, the War renforced it. But the economy starts to affect this feeling. We reconsider.

    • 1966 Gwynfor Evans is MP -> significant event. New wave of nationalism.

    • 1967 Winifred Ewing is MP -> First significant win for the SNP.

    • 1970s

    • 1974 election: very strong result for Plaid Cymru in Wales and SNP in Scotland. We have even strong representation of Nationalist Parties. The criticism is economic -> there is no way Scotland could be independant economically. But in 1969 oil is discovered in the North Sea, which is British territorial waters. Actually if Scotland would be independant it would be their sea -> “It's Scotland's Oil !”

    • 1974 -> 1979 the Independance become a strong possibily. “Home Rule” -> Devolution.

      We assure some transfer of power back to the periphery. Keep the UL but let some local power to the countries which want it (Scotland, Wales). We delegate, surbordinate.

    • Labour 1974-1979 is afraid of a real independance.

      Laws: 1) Based of the result of a commission: creation of an Assembly of Scotland.

      2) Creation of an Assembly in Wales.

      1979: 2 referendums: Do you agree with the Creation of an Assembly ?

      -> Wales: 20% is agree -> it failed.

      -> Scotland: 51,6% is agree -> it failed because what is needed is majority + at least 40% of the “inscrits”. So Devolution dies and disappear for a long time.

    • Conservative 1979-1997. They don't consider a changement. Rapid desindustrialisation in Scotland and Wales, industrial jobs disappear. The Conservative don't do a good job with Scotland and Wales.

      On the UK Parliament there is 72 MPs from Scotland: in 1983 they are 21 conservatives, and in 1987 they are only 10. Scotish voters are not for the Conservative party. But all these years they got Conservative party anyway. In Parliament there is 651 MPs, English vote for Conservative. It doesn't matter the impopularity in Scotland, England is bigger so have much more votes.

    • Labour in 1997 had accepted some form of decentralisation.

      Campaign: “if you vote for us we'll introduce devolution.” -> And so they did.

      Referendums: Scotlish Parliament: 74,3% YES (Holyrood)

      Welsh Assembly: 50,3% YES (Senned)

    • Devolved matters (school, transport, environnment,... and the Police in Scotland). That means that when the UK makes a law it doesn't affect Scotland and Wales. But the UK keep some power: Reserved matters (international affairs, declaring wars,...)

    • Tuition fees (= frais d'inscription à l'université).

      England: max £9000 / Scotland: free / Wales: grant to reimburse the tuition fees / Northern Ireland: has a price but put a limit on it.

    • Scotland has MP (Member of Parliament in the UK) and MSP (Member of the Scotish Parliament): it's a double political representation.

      The only people who doesn't have that double representation are the English. They are only represented by their MP in the UK Parliament. For exemple Tuition feed is decided by all MPs of UK Parliament even if it only affects England : it's the West Lothian Question.

    • 1995: “Devolution will kill independance” => Devolution is advantagious for Scotland and Wales (they have their own political institutions) but they remain part of the UK.

    • 2007: SNP first election victory => massive victory.

    • 2011: SNP second election victory !

    • 2014: Referendum for independance. They still campaign for it.


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  •  Topic 4: Northern Ireland


    Acts of union: Ireland

    • Colonisation -> 12th C; 16th - 17th C -> Catholic VS Protestant (dominant)

    • 1801: Act of Union -> UK.

    • 19th C – 20th C. “Home Rule for Ireland” (like a Devolution). 1914 act “Third Bill”, finally became a law for the British. But 1914 is the start of the WWI, it's not the good time for it so the law is abandoned.

    • 1916: Easter Rising. Group of Irish nationalist rebels. “We will take our freedom by force”. They failed: the insurrection last for only a few day. 16 martyrs for the Rebellion: shooted by the British (it's the Bloody Sunday).

    • 1918: General Election. Sinn Féin (Irish votes for it) and their slogan “Ourselves alone in gaellic”. They don't recognize the UK Parliament. Irish Republican Army (IRA) leads a guerrilla, it's a clandestine army (not official), with volunteers. They fight against the police and the British Army. In these condititons a law is passed in 1920: the Partition. Northern Ireland stay with the UK, and the rest of Ireland become a free state with its own Parliament.

    • 1960s :

      > The North is still part of the UK but it's the first devolved state: it has its own parlimant: Stormont. There is a Catholic minority, Protestant dominate the Parliament, the police, the business,... Catholics are excluded, it's hard to be a Catholic in N.I. -> Huge discrimination.

      > A Civil Right is asked for equal rights and end the discrimination. Violent desmontration are repressed by the police (Civil Rights March). Sense of crises are leads in 1969 to segragate Catholics and Protestant because they can't cohabitate. They are separated by high walls -> community violence. The British sent its army.

      > Provisionnal IRA (clandestine army), citizens rise.

      > The Troubles -> IRA attack first British Army. They also target symbols of British rules and any person suspected of helping British.

      > Loyalist or Unionist forces attack the IRA back. Situation of constant violence: called the Troubles, keep going for 30 years. That seemes difficult to resolve.

    • Peace process:

      > 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement: self-determination. Both governement recognize N.I.'s decisions should be determined by N.I. Inhabitants.

      > 1993 IRA cease fire (cessez-le-feu).

      > 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Same time than Devolution in UK. They propose to re-open the N.I. Assembly. Particular condition: Power-sharing executive (inforced coalition, members of each community, between Protestants (Unionists) and Catholics (Nationalists). The problem is almost immediatly they can't cooperate.

      > IRA decommissioning: making sure the IRA never fight again and destroy all weapons. By 2006 is declared they finally did it.

      > Sinn Féin (Nationalist) and DUP (Unionist) allow a positive development when they decide to work together, in 2007.

      > Some small groupes doesn't accept the Good Friday, there is a new IRA since 2010.


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  • Topic 5: The Monarchy and the Constitution


    > 1952 : Elisabeth II still on the throne for 60 years now.

    > Traditionnaly we don't say citizens but subjects (even if now we say citizens of the UK).

    > There is symbols of the Queen everywhere, reminding the dominant position of the Monarch : Royal Navy, Royal mail, Her Majesty's courts service,...

    > The Monarch is the head of state and of the government (and army,...). Theoretically it's a huge power. The Royal prerogative : it's the Queen job to open and close and desolve Parliament. System of Royal assent (approbation) for laws. She appoints Ministers including the PM. She can also declare war, or peace (traités).


    > But is she really the head of the country ?

    → No, she doesn't govern the country, it's only theoretical powers. « Reigns but doesn't rule ». It's a figure head, a symbol of power.


    > If the Queen is not governing, who does ?

    → UK Parliament and the PM, who today is the real figure of power. It's on the name of the Queen but it's the PM who govern.


    > Process of royal power transfered to Minister : 

    → 1215 Magna Carta : The King asked a tax that the noble didn't want to pay, so the king put them in prison. So the noble make this charter to limit the power of the king: for he does not put people in jail if he wants to.

    → 1688 Glorious Revolution : William III of Orange and Mary. Revolution where one King is replced by another King (the previous one was unpopular, he was forced to exile). He was catholic and autocratic, so William III and Mary came to the throne. They accept the principle of the Parliament giving power to the Monarch.

    → 1689 Bill of Rights : The King accept he can no longer do some things. (ex : he can't do laws, taxes, without the Parliamment agreement). 3 things he doesn't have in his really own power.

    → 1714 King George I : As a British King he is also King of Germany, he's german and doesn't even talk english, and not carying about English policies. He clearly delegates his powers to the Ministers, in particular the Chief Minsiter, ou PM.

    → Constitutional Monarchy / Parliamentary Monarchy : The Queen is actually a well-loved figure in the UK. She represent stability in a time of change and crisis. She is also a symbol of British national unity. It's also good for tourism, and the Royal family is a model of family with great values. But there is also some criticism. She's extremely wealthy and in particular in the 90s there is some complain as she doesn't pay taxes. On these years the Queen was also critized for her cold temper about Diana's death. Charles is also not popular, he is an excentric. Anyway, a Republic was wanted by 20% of the population, so still 80% wanted the Monarchy.


    > The UK Constitution

    Définition : “Formal record of how the state should be run”. It should countain : Principles, Human Rights, Institutions, and Territory. These are the things we find in most constitutions.

    > Constitution is different of “the law”. In France the law is the Code Civil and the Code Penal. In the UK the Constitution is uncodified. So is there a Constitution ? Yes : there is no formal single document, but we can find some writen elements of the Constitution. No single unified document called the UK Constitution but there is a multiplicity of different documents. So the Constitution evolves with the time:

    • Historical documents may represents the pieces of Constitution (Magna Carta, Bill of Rights,...)

    • Statute law simply are laws passed by Parliament (ex: 1988 Scotland act, devolution).

    • EU law: since 1973, may considered of being part of the Constitution.

    • Common laws: laws codified by judges (not by Parliament).

    > All of these are documents, we can read them. But there is also an unwriten source:

    • Convention: even if it's unwriten it's an important part of the law passed by tradition:

      Ex: to be PM you have to be elected as an MP, the convention say you can't be PM if you weren't MP.

      Ex: The Queen chose the PM but it's directed by convention, she has to chose the leader of the largest Party after a general election.

      Ex: (Theorically) the Queen has to approve (or not) laws. In reality the Queen never refuses legislation because it's a tradition (the last contestation was 300 years ago).


    The Human Rights

    > Habeas Corpus Act 1679: you can't go to jell unless there is a “procès” and it's explained to you why you're going to jell.

    > Implicit Rights → General principles, for example citizens are free. If there is no document who say you can't do it, so you can do it. You were borned free.

    > 1998: Human Rights Act: Biggest Change of the Constitution.

    > The UK can't ignore the EU Convention on Human Rights.


    Constitutionality in UK

    > In France there is a Constitutional Council who check if the new laws respect the Constitution. In the UK the Constitution is made of laws the Parliament have passed. We can't say “this law can't pass because it doesn't respect the Constitution”, because it's juste a law eventually.

    > Entrenchment → protected from modification. There is no entrenchment in UK: a simply new law is enough.

    > Clarity, flexibility.



    Book: Chap 2: The Monarchy (p.24-31)

              Chap 3: The Constitution (p.43-56)


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  •  Topic 6: Parliament

    Some facts

    > England: 13th C

    The Parliament is a very old institution, one of the oldest Parliament in the World. So England is called the Mother of Parliaments.

    > Legislature/legislative branch.

    > Separation of powers (according to Montesquieu we should have a clear separation of power).

    > Checks and balances = système de contre-poids. Legislature – Executive.


    Two chambers

    There are 2 distincts chambers or Houses:

    Law Chamber

    House of Commons [Dominate Parliament, central key]

    Upper Chamber

    House of Lords


    Parliamentory Democracy

    > It's only on the 19th C that more people can vote, the right to vote was extended. But there was still people who couldn't: if you're poor and don't gave a property: so women and working people.

    > 1918 = everybody can vote ! Beginning of vote for women (over 30 at first). Men could vote at age 21. Now it's 18 for everyone.

    > General election:

    • 5 years max (it can be less)

    • 650 MPs

    • MP = elected members of the House of Commons


    House of Commons

    650 elected MPs, by People

    House of Lords

    about 780 unelected Lords (the number often change). Undemocratic nature.


    The House of Lords

    > Traditional organisation: Lords Temporal = noble men (Baron, Vicount, Marquis, Duke, Prince of Wales) / Lords Spiritual = bishops, archbishops (only 26). A title give you a title and lands. You become a Lord threw your father: herited position in Parliament: we talk about Hereditory Peers (another name for lord).

    It's unrepresentative (undemocratic, doesn't represent the people), an aristocratic elite.

    > 1958: Life Peers. Just for life, not hereditory. Nominated by the Queen.

    > 1963 → Women are able to be peers, before that it was only men. Politicians can become a Lord (like M. Thatcher). People who showed some skill, who have their own field,...

    > In the House of Lords there was before 1999:

    • Hereditary Peers

    • Law Lords (senior judges)

    • Bishops / Archbishops (26)

    • Life Peers


    > The 1999 Reform

    → Issue of herediatary peers, in 21th C we can't continue thie medival thing. They said “we should eliminate this”, but it's such a big change that some people would have been upset, so we introduced a compromise : a transition phase, keeping a small number until we're ready to eliminate this for good. Still 92 hereditary peers remained.

    → The largest category now is the Life Peers.

    → The main question is: what we want for the House of Lord ? It should be an elected thing. But if we have elected peers, the 2 chambers would be both equals, so no chamber would have more authority. In France we have a directly elected Assemblée Nationale and an undirectly elected Sénat. Maybe we should keep a system of appointed peers.


    > 2005: Reform

    → Law Lords eliminated. New Institution: the Supreme Court (2009, judiciary power), to improve the separation of powers.


    The UK Parliament: two houses.

    The House of Commons:

    Frontbenchers are Government Ministers. Backbenchers are the less importants MPs. The Shadow Cabinet is the second largest party who is the opposition of the Government.

    House of Commons

    The House of Lords:


    House of Lords


    Functions of the UK Parliament

    > To legislate = to pass laws, vote on laws. Propose the Bills: 95% of the bills are introduced by the Parliament.

    > Bill's making process:

    • 1st reading → general idea

    • 2nd reading → scrutiny (is it going to work ? How to write it ?)

      amendments: some changes, what the government wants ?

    • 3rd reading → presentation of the Bill in its finalized form.

    • Final State → Royal Assent.


    > The House of Lords occasionnaly reject a Bill. What happens then ?

    → They apply a veto on the Bill. So the unelected body has the final word. But it was eliminated:

    1911: Parliament Act, 1st Attempt: the House of Lord can't block a bill more than 2 years.

    1949: 2nd Attempt: they can't put a veto on a bill anymore?

    This act gives more power to the elected body: the House of Commons.



    Book: Chap 4: Parliament.


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