Ed West: “The relationship between the United Kingdom and France is a matter of social class”

The British tendency to attack the French stems from a long history marked by a certain inferiority complex, analyzes British journalist Ed West, author of several books on the history of England.

Courier International: Why is France the main adversary of the United Kingdom on the European continent?

Ed West: It all started with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the invasion of the Normans, who drove the aristocracy out of place. It is the starting point of centuries of conflicts, but also of the tendency in Great Britain to associate “all that is French” with the well-to-do classes. This phenomenon accelerated in the 18th century when Paris established itself as the center of gravity of the world and French became the main language of the European continent, considered to be of great culture and sophistication. Even today, in the United Kingdom it is considered bourgeois to have a “D” next to your last name. So the relationship with France is clearly a matter of social classes. The middle class loves France, loves to pronounce French words and travels to the South of France on vacation. At the same time, the working classes generally detest anything French, as relations with France are closely tied to the British class structure.

For the sake of historical anecdote, the English working class was deeply opposed to the French Revolution, which was followed twenty years later.


Interview by Sasha Mitchell

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