ENGLAND AND ITS INFLUENCE

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One very deep influence on my life and work, which again it is difficult for me to analyse because it has been with me for a very long time and has, so to speak, become fully internalized, is my love for and interest in my own country, England. The contributing factors are easy enough to enumerate, but more difficult to evaluate.

One can start with the kinship system, that tension between a mild yearning for a wider set of emotional ties (which I romantically link to my Celtic side) and my actual, very atomized and nucleated Protestant and English family life - in England.

Secondly, there is the influence of my mother - a wanderer, questioner, seeker and meditator. A person whose own quest has obviously affected mine in many ways and with whom, over the years, I have shared many ideas.

Thirdly, there is my very English education. Through the various pre-prep schools, the Dragon, Sedbergh, Oxford and then Cambridge, I have been exposed to that public-school - varsity sequence which very powerfully moulds character. It moulds thoughts, emotions, styles of living, logical processes and everything. Above all it glues one deeply to one's country. In some ways, as a Cambridge don and product of the system, I am quintessentially English - with the right accent, connections and imbued with very many characteristics - reticence, tolerance, balance, toughness, irony, inhibitions, loneliness, individualism, heartiness etc.

This powerful, almost Jesuitical, up-bringing has combined with a deep love and interest in things English. From my time in Dorset, through a deep love for the Lake District and Wordsworth and the Yorkshire hills, through Oxbridge and its charms, now to our exquisite house and garden in Lode, I have soaked in a great deal of English culture - humour, aesthetics, political organization etc. I have added to this implicit and informal indoctrination quite explicitly by teaching, studying and writing a great deal about the English - and hence myself.

This can be seen easily enough in my library - where a very large section consists of literary texts about England. Not just formal English social/legal/political history which, of course, is one of my formal academic areas of expertise, but in the even larger number of 'sources' - autobiographies, dairies, letters, travellers accounts, 'classics' from Bartholameus Anglicus through Defoe and others, down to modern poetry and novels. The 'Englishness of the English' has been one of my major themes both in writing - from witchcraft and Josselin onwards, and also in living and researching.

In much of my life, I am often consciously explaining, whether on Faculty Boards, in pubs, watching cricket, or wherever, what it is to be 'English'. In research, my two most intensive periods of research have been into the nitty-gritty of English villages, Kirkby Lonsdale and Earls Colne. This was yet another way to try to get inside the English system and to see how it works.

The ordering of one's personal relationships and personal space, and in particular the attempt to create a very 'English, Marvell-Milton earthly paradise in our house and garden at Lode, is another example of the attempt to live one's Englishness. Too much of this would be a bad thing. What anthropology allows one to do is to be a participant-observer in one's own culture - both living and observing bits and pieces. Both help the other, I hope.