The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Modern Ethnic, National and Religious Problems

Category: 20th century

During the last decades the people of Great Brit­ain stopped to be purely “European”. Most of the coun­try’s population descend from the Celts, Angles, Sax­ons, and Normans. Since the 1950′s, however, many immigrants from Commonwealth countries have set­tled in Great Britain, especially in England. In the mid-195 O’s immigrants arrived at a rate of about 35,000 a year. Most of them came from India, Pakistan, the West Indies and Africa. The rapid growth of population re­sulted in many serious problems that led to race riots in early 1980′s.

The general decline of manufacturing eventually resulted in high unemployment. The rate of unem­ployment peaked in the mid-1980′s providing grounds for new racial clashes. The British workers had to com­pete for jobs with the immigrants, while the immi­grants resented the discrimination they sometimes encountered. The British do a lot to settle racial prob­lems and they have already succeeded in building a multiethnic society. They have learned to respect cul­tural and religious identity of the new arrivals, and mutual respect has always been a key to prosperity of human society.

Another problem still unsolved is the Irish question, which is rather a religious and political than national matter. Beginning in 1921, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and other militant Irish catholic groups have been at war with the British, hoping to force the British government to give up control over Northern Ireland. British measures could not totally halt the wave of bombings and killings in Northern Ireland and England.

Irish Protestants retaliated against the IRA at­tempts, and acts of violence and terrorism continued into 1990′s.

Irish Protestants resent the union of Northern Ire­land with the Republic of Ireland. They believe that such union would place them under Catholic rule. On the other hand, Catholics in Northern Ireland claim that the Protestants discriminate against them. The riots that began in 1968 made Britain suspend North­ern Ireland’s government and establish direct rule over the country. This measure has brought little positive changes, and tensions between Catholics and Protes­tants in Northern Ireland may lead to serious compli­cations.

During the 1970′s, successive British governments also faced difficulties in Scotland. A Scottish National­ist party scored impressive gains in the elections of 1974, and the attempt to set up a semi-independent parliament in Edinburgh was discussed. When only about 30 per cent of the Scottish electorate supported the plan in a 1979 referendum, the project died. To­day, Scotland elects 72 of the 650 members of the British House of Commons, while the country’s day-to-day administration is conducted by the Scottish Office in Edinburgh.

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