Cultural History of Britain Some definitions

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Cultural History of Britain

Some definitions
“Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning ‘to cultivate’) generally refers to patterns (mód) of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance (jelentőség). Different definitions of “culture” reflect different theoretical bases (elméleti alap) for understanding, or criteria for evaluating (értékel) human activity. In general, the term culture denotes (jelöl) the whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings. It includes technology, art, science, as well as moral systems and the characteristic behaviors and habits of the selected intelligent entities.”

“Culture is the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.”

/Marriam Webster Dictionary/
“Culture is the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them” (9).

/Lederach, J.P. (1995). Preparing for peace: Conflict transformation across cultures. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. /
“Culture: learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day- to-day living patterns. these patterns and models pervade (beleivódik) all aspects of human social interaction. Culture is mankind's primary adaptive mechanism” (367).

/Damen, L. (1987). Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension on the Language Classroom. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley./
“A culture is a configuration (alakzat) of learned behaviors and results of behavior whose component elements (alkotóelem) are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society” (32).

/Linton, R. (1945). The Cultural Background of Personality. New York./
“Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.”

/The Free Dictionary/

As the above definitions suggest culture stands for the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion acquired and shared by a group of people in the course of generations through the individuals and institutions. Culture consists of patterns of and behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols. It is constituted upon the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts. The essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values. Culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.

Culture is the sum of total of the learned behaviour of a group of people and is transmitted from generation to generation. It is thus a collective programming of the mind that differentiates (megkülönböztet) the members of one group or category of people from another.

Manifestations of Culture

  • Symbols are words, gestures, pictures, or objects that carry a particular meaning which is only recognized by those who share a particular culture. New symbols easily develop, old ones disappear. Symbols from one particular group are regularly copied by others. This is why symbols represent the outermost layer of a culture.

  • Heroes are persons, past or present, real or fictitious, who possess characteristics that are highly prized in a culture. They also serve as models for behaviour.

  • Rituals are collective activities, sometimes superfluous in reaching desired objectives, but are considered as socially essential. They are therefore carried out most of the times for their own sake (ways of greetings, paying respect to others, religious and social ceremonies, etc.).

  • The core of a culture is formed by values. They are broad tendencies for preferences of certain state of affairs to others (good-evil, right-wrong, natural-unnatural). Many values remain unconscious to those who hold them. Therefore they often cannot be discussed, nor can they be directly observed by others. Values can only be inferred from the way people act under different circumstances.

  • Symbols, heroes, and rituals are the tangible or visual aspects of the practices of a culture. The true cultural meaning of the practices is intangible (meg nem fogható); this is revealed only when the practices are interpreted by the insiders.


Figure 1. Manifestation of Culture at Different Levels of Depth

Layers of culture

People even within the same culture carry several layers of mental programming within themselves. Different layers of culture exist at the following levels:

  • The national level: Associated with the nation as a whole.

  • The regional level: Associated with ethnic, linguistic, or religious differences that exist within a nation.

  • The gender level: Associated with gender differences (female vs. male)

  • The generation level: Associated with the differences between grandparents and parents, parents and children.

  • The social class level: Associated with educational opportunities and differences in occupation.

  • The corporate level: Associated with the particular culture of an organization. Applicable to those who are employed.

Origins of Theories of Culture

In the next section I will overview early theoretical reflections on culture, with special attention to Anglo-Saxon authors.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was a pre-eminent poet of the Victorian era, a lifelong educator, a pioneer in the field of literary criticism, a government official (Inspector of Schools), and an influential public figure. But one of his most enduring legacies is his extensive body of writing on the topic of culture. Arnold saw culture – “contact with the best which has been thought and said in the world" (basically as high culture) – as the crucial component of a healthy democratic state.

Arnold’s view of culture as involving such characteristics as beauty, intelligence, and perfection is a Neoplatonic one – that is, it tends to assume that these values exist in the abstract and are the same for all human societies. His argument, then, is openly political: he feels that if more people will share and pursue his notions of beauty, truth, and perfection – of culture – that the world will be a better place.

Quote from Culture and Anarchy, 1869:

“The disparagers (becsmérlő) of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity (hiúság). The culture which is supposed to plume itself on (büszkélkedik) a smattering (felszínes ismeret) of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance (tudatlanság) or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it. No serious man would consider all this culture, or attach any value to it, as culture, at all.

But there is of culture another view, in which not solely the scientific passion, the sheer desire to see things as they are, natural and proper in an intelligent being, appears as the ground of it. There is a view in which all the love of our neighbour, the impulses towards action, help, and beneficence (jótékonyság), the desire for removing human error, clearing human confusion, and diminishing human misery (szenvedés), the noble aspiration (törekvés) to leave the world better and happier than we found it, come in as part of the grounds of culture, and the main and pre-eminent (kimagasló) part. Culture is then properly described not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection. It moves by the force, not merely or primarily of the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but also of the moral and social passion for doing good.


The Greek idea of “a finely tempered nature” gives exactly the notion of perfection as culture brings us to conceive it: a harmonious perfection, a perfection in which the characters of beauty and intelligence are both present, which […] “the two noblest of things, sweetness and light.” The man with a finely tempered nature is the man who tends toward sweetness and light.”


It was at the era of Arnold that the modern academic discipline of anthropology was born. The birth occurred when the British founder of anthropology, E. B. Tylor, transformed the concepts of civilization and culture. Tylor was concerned with the general question of how “the conditions of culture” developed in various societies. Like most social theorists of his time, he accepted a developmental model of change, which has its own suppositions and logic. In our present context, this means that Tylor understood the task of anthropology (or as he preferred to say, ethnography) in terms of a single linear sequence from less to more complexity.

Quote from Tylor’s Primitive Culture, 1873/1958:

“Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities (képességek) and habits acquired (elsajátít) by man as a member of society. The condition of culture among the various societies of mankind, in so far as it is capable of being investigated on general principles, is a subject apt (alkalmas) for the study of laws of human thought and action … By simply placing nations at one end of the social series and savage (primitív) tribes at the other, arranging the rest of mankind between these limits ... ethnographers are able to set up a rough scale of civilization — a transition from the savage state to our own.” (1).

Raymond Williams was an early pioneer in the field of “cultural studies” – in fact, he was doing cultural studies before the term was even coined (megalkot). The following excerpt is from an essay Williams wrote in 1958, entitled Culture is Ordinary. According to one of his editors, Williams he “forced the first important shift into a new way of thinking about the symbolic dimensions of our lives. Thus, ‘culture’ is wrested from that privileged space of artistic production and specialist knowledge [e.g. high culture], into the lived experience of the everyday” (Gray and McGuigan 1).

Quote from Moving from High Culture to Ordinary Culture, 1958:

“Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment (módosítás) under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. The growing society is there, yet it is also made and remade in every individual mind. The making of a mind is, first, the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings, so that work, observation (megfigyelés) and communication are possible. Then, second, but equal in importance, is the testing of these in experience, the making of new observations, comparisons (összehasonlítás), and meanings. A culture has two aspects: the known meanings and directions, which its members are trained to; the new observations and meanings, which are offered and tested. These are the ordinary processes of human societies and human minds, and we see through them the nature of a culture: that it is always both traditional and creative; that it is both the most ordinary common meanings and the finest individual meanings. We use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life – the common meanings; to mean the arts and learning – the special processes of discovery and creative effort. Some writers reserve the word for one or other of these senses; I insist on both, and on the significance (jelentőség) of their conjunction (kapcsolat). The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meanings. Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.” (6)


Clifford Geertz (1926-2006) is best known for his ethnographic studies of Javanese culture (Java is an Indonesian island south of Borneo) and for his writings about the interpretation of culture. The most influential aspect of Geertz’s work has been his emphasis on the importance of the symbolic – of systems of meaning – as it relates to culture, cultural change, and the study of culture. The function of culture is to impose (megszab) meaning on the world and make it understandable. The role of anthropologists is to try (though complete success is not possible) to interpret the guiding symbols of each culture. Geertz is an example of the great transition (átmenet) which has taken place regarding the concept “culture” in Western thought over the past century; Raymond Williams’ perspective might be taken as a middle ground in this transition.
In attempting to lay out the various meanings attached to the word culture, Clifford Geertz refers to Clyde Kluckhohn’s Mirror for Man, actually hopes to understand culture that possesses all of the following characteristics suggested by Kluckhohn:


the total way of life of a people


the social legacy (örökség) the individual acquires from his group


a way of thinking, feeling, and believing


an abstraction from behaviour


a theory on the part of the anthropologist about the way in which a group of people in fact behave


A “storehouse of pooled learning


a set of standardized orientations (tájékozódás) to recurrent (ismétlődő) problems


learned behaviour


a mechanism for the normative regulation of behavior


a set of techniques for adjusting both to the external environment and to other men


a precipitate (üledék)of history


a behavioral map, sieve (szita), or matrix

Quotes from The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973:

“The concept of culture I espouse (felkarol) … is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended (függ) in webs of significance (jelentésháló) he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication (magyarázat) I am after”. (4-5)
Geertz compares the methods of an anthropologist analyzing culture to those of a literary critic analyzing a text: “sorting out the structures of signification ... and determining their social ground and import…Doing etnography is like trying to read (in the sense of ‘construct a reading of’) a manuscript…”

“Once human behavior is seen as … symbolic action – action which, like phonation (hangképzés) in speech, pigment in painting, line in writing, or sonance (hangzó) in music, signifies – the question as to whether culture is patterned conduct or a frame of mind, or even the two somehow mixed together, loses sense. The thing to ask [of actions] is what their import (jelentés, jelentőség) is” (9-10).

Geertz argues that culture is public because systems of meaning are necessarily the collective property of a group. When we say we do not understand the actions of people from a culture other than our own, we are acknowledging our “lack of familiarity with the imaginative universe within which their acts are signs” (12-13).


John H. Bodley is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University. In this excerpt from his textbook on cultural anthropology entitled Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System (1994) Bodley discusses the history of anthropological conceptions of culture and argues that contemporary views about culture are descriptive, inclusive, and relativistic. He furthermore discusses the theoretical debate among anthropologists over the most useful attributes that a technical concept of culture should stress. He refers to the work of Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, American anthropologists, who in 1952 published a list of 160 different definitions of culture. In the table below you will find a list indicating the diversity of the anthropological concept of culture. The specific culture concept that particular anthropologists work with is an important matter because it may influence the research problems they investigate, their methods and interpretations, and the positions they take on public policy issues.

TABLE: Diverse Definitions of Culture:


Culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, such as social organization, religion, or economy


Culture is social heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to future generations


Culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life


Culture is ideals, values, or rules for living


Culture is the way humans solve problems of adapting to the environment or living together


Culture is a complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulses and distinguish people from animals


Culture consists of patterned and interrelated ideas, symbols, or behaviors


Culture is based on arbitrarily assigned meanings that are shared by a society

For an overview of how the concept of culture was understood in the past two centuries see:

The Strange Career of the Concept of Culture by Thomas Wren at:

As the above definitions and (anthropological) approaches suggest culture is present in almost every aspect of life. It is undoubtedly an important factor in the establishment and maintenance of individual and collective identities. The following theories, concepts and models hopefully contribute to the better understanding of identity-formation and the problems/solutions inherent cross-cultural understanding and communication.

Theory of Cultural Determinism

The position that the ideas, meanings, beliefs and values people learn as members of society determines human nature. People are what they learn. Optimistic version of cultural determinism place no limits on the abilities of human beings to do or to be whatever they want. Some anthropologists suggest that there is no universal “right way” of being human. “Right way” is almost always “our way”; that “our way” in one society almost never corresponds (egybeesik) to “our way” in any other society. Proper attitude of an informed human being could only be that of tolerance.

  • The optimistic version of this theory postulates (feltételez) that human nature being infinitely malleable (alakítható), human being can choose the ways of life they prefer.

  • The pessimistic version maintains that people are what they are conditioned to be; this is something over which they have no control. Human beings are passive creatures and do whatever their culture tells them to do. This explanation leads to behaviorism that locates the causes of human behavior in a realm that is totally beyond human control.

Cultural Relativism

Different cultural groups think, feel, and act differently. There is no scientific standards for considering one group as intrinsically (lényegét tekintve) superior or inferior to another. Studying differences in culture among groups and societies presupposes (előfeltételez) a position of cultural relativism. It does not imply normalcy for oneself, nor for one’s society. It, however, calls for judgment when dealing with groups or societies different from one’s own. Information about the nature of cultural differences between societies, their roots, and their consequences should precede judgment and action. Negotiation is more likely to succeed when the parties concerned understand the reasons for the differences in viewpoints.

Cultural Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to that of other cultures. It is a form of reductionism that reduces the “other way” of life to a distorted version of one’s own. This is particularly important in case of global dealings when a company or an individual believes that methods, materials, or ideas that worked in the home country will also work abroad. Environmental differences are, therefore, ignored.

Cultural imperialism is closely connected to cultural ethnocentrism and refers to the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture or language of one nation into another. It is usually the case that the former is a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter is a smaller, less important one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude. The term is usually used in a pejorative (elítélő) sense, usually in call with a call to reject foreign influence.
‘Cultural imperialism’ can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will. Since these are two very different referents, the validity of the term has been called into question. The term cultural imperialism is understood differently in particular discourses.


The Monocultural Nation-state (Europe)

Especially in the 19th century, the ideology of nationalism transformed the way Europeans thought about the state. Existing states were broken up and new ones created; the new nation-states were founded on the principle that each nation is entitled to its own sovereign state and to engender (megteremt), protect, and preserve its own unique culture and history. Unity, under this ideology, is seen as an essential feature of the nation and the nation-state – unity of descent (leszármazás), unity of culture, unity of language, and often unity of religion. The nation-state constitutes a culturally homogeneous society, although some national movements recognised regional differences. None, however, accepted foreign elements in culture and society. Multilingual and multi-ethnic empires, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, were considered oppressive, and most Europeans did not accept that such a state could be legitimate.

Where cultural unity was insufficient, it was encouraged and enforced (rákényszerít) by the state. The 19th-century nation-states developed a range of policies – the most important was compulsory primary education in the national language. The language itself was often standardized by a linguistic academy, and regional languages were ignored or suppressed (elnyom). Some nation-states pursued violent policies of cultural assimilation and even ethnic cleansing (etnikai tisztogatás).

The 'Melting Pot' ideal (USA)
In the United States, continuous mass immigration had been a feature of economy and society since the first half of the 19th century. The absorption of the stream of immigrants became, in itself, a prominent (kiemelkedő) feature of America’s national myth. The idea of the Melting pot is a metaphor that implies that all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated (egybeolvad) without state intervention. The Melting Pot implied that each individual immigrant, and each group of immigrants, assimilated into American society at their own pace. An Americanized (and often stereotypical) version of the original nation’s cuisine, and its holidays, survived. Note that the Melting Pot tradition co-exists with a belief in national unity, dating from the American founding fathers.


The term multiculturalism generally refers to a state of both cultural and ethnic diversity (sokféleség) within the demographics of a particular social space. Some countries have official, or de jure (törvényszerinti) multiculturalism policies aimed at preserving the cultures or cultural identities – usually those of immigrant groups – within a unified society. In this context, multiculturalism supports a society that extends fair status to distinct cultural and religious groups, no one culture predominating (túlsúlyban van). However, the term is more commonly used to describe a society consisting of minority immigrant cultures existing alongside a predominant, indigenous (őshonos) culture.

Adoption of multiculturalism as national policy

Multiculturalism was adopted as official policy, in several Western nations from the 1970s onward, for reasons that varied from country to country.

Government multicultural policies included:

  • recognition of multiple citizenship (the multiple citizenship itself usually results from the nationality laws of another country)

  • government support for newspapers, television, and radio in minority languages

  • support for minority festivals, holidays, and celebrations

  • acceptance of traditional and religious dress in schools, the military, and society in general

  • support for music and arts from minority cultures

  • programs to encourage minority representation in politics, SET (Science, Engineering and Technology), Mathematics, education, and the work force in general.

Cultural Pluralism

Closely connected to the idea of multiculturalism is the concept of cultural pluralism a situation in which small groups within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities. In a pluralist culture, unique groups not only coexist side by side, but also consider qualities of other groups as traits worth having in the dominant culture. The current contemporary art world in the 21st century is an example of cultural pluralism. For another example, a community centre in the United States may offer classes in Indian yoga, Chinese calligraphy, and Latin salsa dancing. That community may also have one or more synagogues, mosques, mandirs, gurudwaras, and/or Buddhist temples, as well as several churches of various Christian denominations (felekezet). The existence of such institutions and practices are possible if the cultural communities responsible for them are protected by law and/or accepted by the larger society in a pluralist culture. Cultural pluralism is a necessary consequence of a flourishing and peaceful democratic society, because of its tolerance and respect for cultural and ethnic diversity.


Following the collapse of the consensus on multiculturalism, several European Union countries have introduced policies for ‘social cohesion’, ‘integration’, and (sometimes) ‘assimilation’. They are sometimes a direct reversal of earlier multiculturalist policies, and seek to assimilate immigrant minorities and restore a de facto (tényleges) monocultural society. The policies include or propose:

  • compulsory language courses in the national language, accompanied by a compulsory language test for immigrants

  • compulsory courses and/or tests on national history, on the constitution and the legal system, see Life in the United Kingdom test

  • official campaigns to promote national unity, and individual identification with the nation

  • official lists of national values, and tests of acceptance of these values

  • restriction on spouses (házastárs) or children joining immigrants already in the country, and age and income restrictions on non-western marriage partners, sometimes with language tests for potential spouses, in their country of origin

  • official declarations specifying that only the national language may be spoken in certain areas

  • language prohibitions (tilalom) in schools, universities, and public buildings. Language bans have also been proposed for public transport and hospitals

  • prohibitions on Islamic dress

  • introduction of an oath of allegiance or loyalty oath for immigrants, usually following naturalisation and during a compulsory ceremony.


Further concepts

High Culture

Thomas Inge in the introduction to The Handbook of Popular Culture puts it well:

The function of high culture is to validate the experience of the individual. Creation is a purely aesthetic act in pursuit (törekszik vlmire) of truth and beauty, and, that being so, therefore self-justifying (önigazoló). ‘Art for art’s sake’ is a phrase generally applied to allow for creations that are non-representational and totally without use or even meaning. […] The art piece is designed aggressively to confront us, to challenge our assumptions and beliefs about art and life, and to identify the unanswered questions about existence.
Theoretically, creators of high culture create not for financial success but rather for the timeless recognition of their having introduced to the world a new way of seeing, hearing, feeling, or experiencing life. The high culture audience is small, hence the creator is usually easily associated with their work.

Folklore/Folk Culture

The creations of folk culture are communal and anticipated. They are communal because the creator and their audience belong to the same small societal (társadalmi) division – the social distance between them is negligible (elhanyagolható) if even present. They are anticipated because the creator draws from the traditional knowledge and the everyday experience of their societal group. Those who create folk culture work with and within the tried and true patterns of experience, and those who are its audience expect that their experiences will reflect the conventions of what has gone before and served them well in the past. Folk culture, accordingly, is a culture of continuity, governed by traditions and the expectation that the experience of daily life, lived as most people do most of the time, will continue largely as it has gone before. Like high culture, folk culture audiences are small, limited to the group in which the folk creation is made. Folk culture of course consists of folk music, folk art, folktales, folkdance, folk costumes, but also localised jokes, oral literature and history, home remedies, old wives’ tales, and superstitions, among others.

In this respect folklore is closely connected to popular culture. In pre-industrial times, mass culture equalled folk culture. This earlier layer of culture still persists today, sometimes in the form of jokes or slang, which spread through the population by word of mouth and via the Internet. By providing a new channel for transmission, cyberspace has renewed the strength of this folk culture.

Popular Culture

Popular culture (earlier called mass culture) can be deemed simply as what is popular within the social context – that of which is most strongly represented by what is perceived to be popularly accepted among society. Otherwise, popular culture is also suggested to be the widespread cultural elements in any given society that are perpetuated through that society’s vernacular language or lingua franca. It comprises the daily interactions, needs and desires and cultural ‘moments’ that make up the everyday lives of the mainstream. It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to cooking, clothing, consumption, mass media and the many facets of entertainment such as sports and literature. Popular culture often contrasts with a more exclusive, even elitist “high culture”. The earliest use of “popular” in English was during the fifteenth century in law and politics, meaning “low”, “base”, “vulgar”, and “of the common people” till the late eighteenth century by which time it began to mean “widespread” and gain in positive connotation (értelem).

There are numerous examples of crossovers between the three cultures to confound the issue. The music of Mozart is classified as high culture for all the reasons it should be, but also because of the socio-economic class that patronised him in eighteenth-century Vienna. But his audience was not limited to that class; if a tune caught on, it was whistled in the streets, thereby becoming ‘popular’. How should Mozart’s music’s appearance on a “Greatest Classical Hits” mass produced CD be classified? Likewise, how do we define the use of Mozart's music on a film soundtrack? Is the medium the means for classification?

Questions of similar importance could be posed in relation to Shakespeare, who did not only play to the elite; he was widely popular and wrote to a popular audience. Many of his plays seek to capture popular currents of the day. The sixteenth-century English were very interested in the Italian Renaissance. Likewise, there was a renewed sense of nationalism, if we can call it that, following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, consequently Shakespeare wrote a number of plays that dealt with English history, particularly focussing on great kings. Today, the difficulty of the early-modern English may alone relegate Shakespeare to high culture, but his audience is vast. Again we are faced with such problems as mass-production, of his plays in print as well as his plays on stage, of film versions, and film adaptations, as well as the fact that some lines from his plays – like “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark”, and of course, “To be or not to be” – have become so common that their origins are sometimes forgotten.

In short,










In cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden) which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong. If a particular subculture is characterized by a systematic opposition to the dominant culture, it may be described as a counterculture. Subcultures can be distinctive because of the age, race, ethnicity, class, and/or gender of the members. The qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be aesthetic, religious, political, sexual or a combination of factors. Members of a subculture often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style. The study of subcultures often consists of the study of symbolism attached to clothing, music and other visible affectations by members of subcultures, and also the ways in which these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture.

The neologism urban tribe was coined in 2001 by Ethan Watters in a New York Times Magazine article. Watters defines urban tribes as groups of never-married's between the ages of 25 and 45 who gather in common-interest groups and enjoy the urban lifestyle, which offers an alternative to traditional family structures.


Arts and Sciences in Britain

Historical Overview of British Cultural History

  • Prehistoric monuments in Britain consist of long barrows, passage graves, stone circles, henges, barrow mounds and hill forts.

  • Newgrange is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world and the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Newgrange appears to have been used as a tomb. The recesses in the cruciform chamber hold large stone basins into which were placed cremated human remains. There are spiral and lozenge (rombusz) motifs engraved on the entrance slab (kőlap), one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art.

  • Primitive Neolithic houses were found at Skara Brae on the mainland which were grouped into a village linked by low passageways, and date from about 3000 BC to 2500 BC. Pottery found here is of the grooved ware style. For illustrations see Appendix 1, Section A.


  • When the Romans invaded Britain in the first century AD they made little attempt to adapt their architecture to the traditions of their new Roman province of Britannia. Rather, they imposed their own Mediterranean style of architecture and town planning. One of the most visible remnants of that style in England is the Roman villa.

  • The Romans built the first cities and towns, which included Chester, St. Albans, London and Bath. Many fine examples of Roman architecture remain: of special note are the ruins of the spa in Bath. Following the Roman’s departure architecture seems to have regressed and little remains of the period immediately after the Roman withdrawal.

  • The Romans probably occupied Aquae Sulis (today Bath) shortly after their invasion of Britain in AD 43, attracted by the large natural hot spring which had been dedicated to the goddess of Celtic Brythons, Sulis. This spring was a natural mineral spring found in the valley of the Avon River in Southwest England. The Romans identified the goddess with their goddess Minerva and encouraged her worship. The similarities between Minerva and Sulis helped the Celtics adapt to Roman culture. The spring was built up into a major Roman Baths complex associated with an adjoining temple, decorated by mosaic. Exquisite mosaic was found in one of many Roman villas discovered in Gloucestershire occupied between the early second and late fourth centuries AD.

  • The earliest English gardens that we know of were planted by the Roman conquerors of Britain in the 1st century AD. The Roman gardens that we know the most about are those of the large villas and palaces. The best example of the latter is probably Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex, where an early garden has been partly reconstructed. Fishbourne shows a carefully symmetrical formal planting of low box hedges (törpe puszpáng sövény) split by gravelled (kavicsos) walks. The hedges are punctuated (tagol) by small niches (fülke) which probably held ornaments like statues, urns, or garden seats. The formal garden near the house gave way to a landscaped green space leading down to the waterside below. There is also a small kitchen garden which is planted with fruits and vegetables common in Roman Britain.


  • Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. The only buildings the Anglo-Saxons tended to build in more permanent stone were their monasteries and churches. Generally preferring not to settle in the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons built small towns near their centres of agriculture. In the towns, there is evidence of main halls, and other forms of buildings. After the Synod of Whitby (664) swung the pendulum of power towards Roman Christian observance, the northern churches developed in the form of basilica, for example at Brixworth. See Appendix 1 Section B.

  • Saxon churches are generally small in scale, showing none of the inclination towards grandeur exhibited by the later Norman builders. Doors and window openings are extremely simple, with very few decorative elements. The Anglo-Saxon's put a lot of energy into tower building in their church architecture, and often Saxon towers are the earliest surviving part of English parish churches. The towers began as a defensive structure; they enabled inhabitants of a village to gain a high lookout point and an easily defensible position to ward off attacks.

  • As mentioned above, most domestic structures in the Saxon period were built in wood. Even the halls of nobles were simple affairs, with a central fire and a hole in the roof to let the smoke escape. Even the largest buildings rarely had more than one floor, and one room. Even the best archaeological remains of domestic buildings from the Anglo-Saxon period offer little more than post holes to view. Buildings vary widely in size, from 10 x 12 ft to as much as 75 x 260 feet. Most are square or rectangular, though some round houses have been found. Frequently these buildings have sunken floors; a shallow pit over which a plank floor was suspended. The pit may have been used for storage, but more likely was filled with straw for winter insulation. Roofing materials varied, with thatch being the most common, though turf and even wooden shingles (zsindely) were also used. Windows were rare, but when they were used they would have been covered with thin animal skins to allow light to penetrate. See Appendix 1 Section B.

  • Insular art, also known as the Hiberno-Saxon style, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of the British Isles. Most insular art originates from the Irish monasticism of the Celtic church, or metalwork for the secular elite, and the period begins around 600 AD, merging in England into Anglo-Saxon art around 900, whilst in Ireland the style continues until about 1200, when it merges into Romanesque art. Surviving examples of Insular art are mainly illuminated manuscripts, metalwork and carvings in stone, especially stone crosses.

  • In general it is clear that most existing insular metalwork survived only by chance, and that we have only fragments of some types of object - in particular the most portable. The highest quality survivals are either secular jewellery, much probably for male wearers, or tableware or altar ware in what were apparently very similar styles. In general it is clear that most survivals are only by chance, and that we have only fragments of some types of object - in particular the most portable. The highest quality survivals are either secular jewellery, much probably for male wearers, or tableware or altar ware in what were apparently very similar styles.

  • The Cathach of St. Columba is an Irish Psalter of the 7th century, perhaps the oldest known Irish manuscript of any sort. It contains only decorated letters, at the beginning of each Psalm, but these already show distinctive traits. In the Book of Durrow after large initials the following letters on the same line, or for some lines beyond, continue to be decorated at a smaller size. Dots round the outside of large initials are much used. The figures are highly stylised, and some pages use Germanic interlaced animal ornament, whilst others use the full repertoire of Celtic geometric spirals. Each page uses a different and coherent set of decorative motifs. The Book of Celts survives nearly intact but the decoration is not finished, with some parts in outline only. It is far more comprehensively decorated than any previous manuscript in any tradition. See Appendix 1 Section B.

  • A characteristic feature of insular art is the High Cross, a standing cross with a circle, made of stone and often richly ornamented. High Crosses exist from the 7th century in Ireland, and were later seen in Scotland and in Wales; the Irish High Cross has become more famous because of its distinctive shape (the ringed Celtic Cross), the amount of ornamentation, and for the quality of their decoration. The ring initially served to strengthen the head and the arms of the High Cross, but it soon became a decorative feature as well. The High Crosses were status symbols, either for a monastery or for a sponsor or patron. See Appendix 1 Section B.

  • Another common Anglo-Saxon element is the stone cross. These crosses were often used to mark points where paths intersected, though they were later used as a gathering place for religious observance. Crosses may have been put up at sites which were already regarded as sacred in pagan worship. Later on, churches were built at the same spots, preserving a continuity of worship.

  • Art in the Middle ages was inseparable from religion. It was infused with spiritual symbolism and meaning. The purpose of art was to awe and inspire the viewer with the grandeur of God. It also served to symbolize what people believed. Pope Gregory the Great, for example said, that “painting can do for the illiterate what writing does for those who read.” He might have added that sculpture could serve the same purpose.

  • As far as church sculpture is concerned, the mission of the sculptor, whose work was seen almost exclusively adorning church buildings, was to educate as well as decorate. He brought Biblical tales and moral lessons to life in stone. Carvings were not just religious, however. Everywhere you look there is evidence of pre-Christian symbology in church sculpture. Sculpture burst forth gloriously in the Romanesque era, with little regard for classical conventions of proportion of figures.

  • At the beginning of the Norman era the style of architecture that was in vogue was known as Romanesque, because it copied the pattern and proportion of the architecture of the Roman Empire. The chief characteristics of the Romanesque style were barrel vaults, round arches, thick piers, and few windows. The easiest point to look for is the rounded arch, seen in door openings and windows. In general the Romanesque churches were heavy and solid, carrying about them an air of solemnity and gloom Durham Castle and Cathedral is a good example of early Romanesque style. See Appendix 1 Section C

  • These early Norman churches were not always as stark as they seem today, however. In their heyday the church walls were hung with tapestries or painted richly. The statues of the saints were gilded (on some you can still see traces of the paint if you look closely), and the service books were inlaid with gold, jewels, and ivory.

  • Beginning in 12th century France a new style of architecture and decoration emerged. At the time it was called simply “The French Style”, but later Renaissance critics, appalled (meghökken) at the abandonment (feladás) of classical line and proportion (arány), derisively called it “Gothic”. This was a reference to the imagined lack of culture of the barbarian tribes, including the Goths, which had ransacked Rome in the twilight of the Roman Empire.

  • Gothic architecture is light, spacious, and graceful. Generally speaking, it emphasized strong vertical lines, high vaulted ceilings, minimal wall space, pointed window and door openings, and buttressed walls. Heavy Romanesque piers were replaced by slender clusters of columns. Window sizes grew enormously, as did the height of vaults and spires.

  • Gothic architecture in Britain has been neatly divided into 4 periods, the following styles:

Norman Gothic 1066-1200

Early English Gothic 1200-1275

Decorated Gothic 1275-1375

Perpendicular Gothic 1375 - 1530+

  • The Norman Gothic period (1066-1200) was not a whole lot different from Gothic elsewhere in Europe. The British temperament had yet to stamp its own mark on the new “French style”. The buildings of this time are transitional – many still have the thick piers and rounded window openings of the earlier Romanesque style. Vaulting and decoration are simple; there is little sign of the elaborate stonework to come. Some good examples of the Norman Gothic period are Wells Cathedral which in many aspects is very similar to Durham Cathedral. See Appendix 1 Section C.

  • It is in the Early English period (1200-1275) that the Gothic style became truly adapted by English craftsmen/architects. This period is also called “Lancet”, referring to the pointed lancet windows (csúcsíves ablak) that characterize it. Form is still austere and proportion is magnificently simple. The main points of Early English are: quadripartite ribbing in vaults, slender towers topped with spires (csúcsos templomtorony), lancet windows – both single and grouped – and piers (támpillér) with narrow, clustered shafts (oszlopfüzér). The finest example of Early English is to be found at Salisbury Cathedral. See Appendix 1 Section C

  • Decorated Gothic (1275-1375) – AKA Geometric, Curvilinear, and Flamboyant – These terms describe primarily the fanciful tracery (lángnyelvszerű kőfaragás) and ornamentation found in the window heads during this time. Windows were wider than the earlier lancet openings. Improved vaulting techniques also helped take the strain of supporting the building’s weight off the walls, which could then become little more than shells with broad window openings. Stone decoration was rich and varied, and window glass more colourful. Stone carvings and paintings abound. The best example of the Decorated period you can visit today is at Exeter Cathedral. See Appendix 1 Section C

  • The final flourishing of Gothic in Britain was the Perpendicular period (1375-1530+). The name suggests its chief characteristic – strong vertical lines in window tracery and wall panelling. Vaults were elaborate fan (legyező) shapes, and the flying buttress became a flowing (kecsesen hajló), decorative feature as well as supplying its essential supporting strength. Towers in particular were elaborately decorated and windows became massive, traceried (csipkézett) spider-webs of stone like lace. Wall space was at a minimum, which had the effect of introducing a wonderful feeling of light and spaciousness (tágasság) into the interior of these buildings. Some of the many excellent Perpendicular Gothic buildings to see today include King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (1446-1515), Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey (1503-19), and The Abbey Church of Saint Peter, Bath (1501-39). The naves of Canterbury Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral were also rebuilt in the Perpendicular style during this time. See Appendix 1 Section C.

  • All of the examples cited in this article are cathedrals. This is because it was generally only in the great churches that the architects of the time were given creative license (jogosítvány). But there are also less lofty (magasztos) examples to be found. Most parish churches in Britain date from the Medieval Gothic period, and it can be a fascinating exercise to trace the changes in style as the church was remodelled over time. You can often find simple Early English elements mixed with Decorated and Perpendicular additions.

  • In the Middle Ages churches were a point of civic (városi) pride, and towns competed to outdo (túlszárnyal) each other in the glory of their churches. Money for the church was raised by the sale of indulgences (búcsúcédula), fund raising caravans of relics (ereklye), parish contributions, and donations from nobles. Many times a guild (céh) would pay for a stained glass window (festett üveg) depicting their trade. Often people would offer their labour to the construction, though much of the work was carried on by skilled workmen under the watchful eye of the head mason (“építésvezető”) and the architect.

  • Churches were often sited on pre-Christian sites of spiritual importance, taking advantage of peoples’ existing devotion to a particular place. Worship was carried on in the same place, just with a Christian orientation. Speaking of orientation, churches are nearly always oriented so that the main altar is at the east end of the church, facing Jerusalem and the rising sun. Even if the altar end of the church is not literally in the east, that end is still referred to as the east end. In theory, then, the east end of an English church could face west.

  • Beside cathedrals and parish churches the other main field of Medieval architecture was castle architecture. Since we have discussed these in detail in at the previous seminar (“Society and Culture”) we will not repeat it. Part of Medieval architecture was the invention of the “manor house” referring to a whole range of buildings, but at its most basic refers to the house of a local lord/landowner: the late medieval country house. The house itself was most often arranged around a central courtyard, with domestic buildings of one to three stories in height. With more space devoted to comfort, private bedrooms and reception rooms became common, as well as family areas like the solar (emeleti lakószoba). Materials varied with the locale; half-timber, stone, brick, and flint (kvarckavics) were all used. See Appendix 1 Section C.

  • In the Middle Ages that gardens once more became important in British life. Monasteries had both kitchen gardens and herb gardens to provide the basic material of food and medicine. The monastery cloister (kerengő) provided an open green space surrounded by covered walks, generally with a well, or fountain at the centre. Castles sometimes made room for small courtyard gardens, with paths through raised flower beds. Other common features of medieval castle gardens include turf seats (gyepülőke) and high mounds, which provided a view over the castle walls. Manor houses in the later medieval period also came with a garden: a simple green space surrounded by hedges or fences. Games like bowls or tennis took place on the lawn.

  • From the 10th or 11th century stained glass began to flourish as an art, glass factories were set up where there was a ready supply of silica (kovaföld), the essential product of glass manufacture. Glass was usually coloured by adding metallic oxides to the glass while in a molten (olvadt) state in a clay pot (cserépüst) over a furnace (kemence). Copper oxides were added to produce green, cobalt for blue, and gold was added to produce red glass. The term stained glass refers either to the material of coloured glass or to the art and craft of working with it. Throughout its thousand-year history the term “stained glass” was applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches, cathedrals and other significant buildings. The coloured glass is crafted into stained glass windows in which small pieces of glass are arranged to form patterns or pictures, held together (traditionally) by strips of lead and supported by a rigid (merev) frame. Painted details and yellow stain are often used to boost the design. The term stained glass is also applied to windows in which all the colours have been painted onto the glass and then annealed (kiéget) in a furnace.

  • The first stage in the production of a window is to make, or acquire from the architect or owners of the building, an accurate template of the window opening that the glass is to fit. The subject matter of the window is determined to suit the location, a particular theme, or the whim (rigolya) of the patron. A small design called a Vidimus is prepared which can be shown to the patron. A traditional narrative window has panels which relate a story. A figurative window could have rows of saints or dignitories. Scriptural texts or mottoes are sometimes included and perhaps the names of the patrons or the person as whose memorial the window is dedicated. See Appendix 1 Section D.

  • As far as visual art is concerned scenes from the Bible were depicted, framed with the ancient patterns. Some ancient symbols were redefined, such as the many Celtic symbols that can easily be interpreted as referring to the Holy Trinity. One new form of art that was introduced was mural (freskó) paintings. Christianity provided two elements needed for this art form to take root: monks who were familiar with the techniques, and stone churches with white-chalked walls suitable for murals. As the artists were often foreign monks, or lay artists trained on the continent, the style is very close to that of continental art. As far as medieval secular painting is concerned, the “The Wilton Diptych” – painted on two panels of Baltic oak – is a representative of the International Gothic style.

  • Very little is known about secular drama during the early medieval time. There certainly existed some performances that were not fully fledged theatre; they may have been carryovers (maradvány) from the original pagan cultures (as is known from records written by the clergy disapproving of such festivals). It is also known that mimes (pantominszínész), minstrels (trubadúr), bards (dalnok), storytellers, and jugglers (zsonglőr) travelled in search of new audiences and financial support. Not much is known about these performers’ repertoire and no written texts survive.

  • Liturgical drama would encompass (magába foglal) many stories from many parts of the Bible and be performed at diverse times of the year, according to local custom. By about 1250 the plays would move outdoors into the churchyard and into open fields, town squares, or the city streets. As geographically further from the church, the clergy had less control over the content. The plays were also presented in the local vernacular languages, instead of in Latin, as was the mass. This allowed the message of the Bible to be more accessible to the illiterate audience who wanted to have it but who were also unable to speak Latin. These new plays in the vernacular based on Bible stories are called mystery plays. In England they would sometimes be performed in day-long festivals in groups of dozens of plays that travelled through town on wagons. Secular dramas were usually performed in winter indoors, and were often associated with schools, universities, and nobility, who would have the resources, time, and space to perform organized plays.

  • By the late medieval period several genres had developed in theatre. Morality plays, such as Everyman, personified Christian virtues and vices as they battled with one another for control of a mortal’s soul. These plays were explicitly designed to teach a moral and improve the behaviour of their audience.

  • Stone carvings in the East of Scotland support the theory that the harp (hárfa) was present in Pictish Scotland well before the 9th century and may have been the original ancestor of the modern European harp. Pictish harps were strung (húroz) from horsehair. The instruments apparently spread south to the Anglo-Saxons, who commonly used gut strings (bélből készült húr), and then west to the Gaels of the Highlands and to Ireland. Until the end of the Middle Ages it was the most popular musical instrument in Scotland, and harpers were among the most prestigious cultural figures in the courts of Irish/Scottish chieftains and Scottish kings and earls. In both countries, harpers enjoyed special rights and played a crucial part in ceremonial occasions such as coronations and poetic bardic recitals.

  • Later, the Great Highland Bagpipe appeared on the scene. Initially, pipers played traditional pieces, which consist of a theme and a series of developments. Later, the style of ‘light music’ including marches, reels, jigs, and hornpipes (matróztánc), became more popular. In the 18th century the British army adopted piping and spread the idea of pipe bands throughout the British Empire. The piping tradition is strongly connected to Gaelic singing, stepdance (the traditional dance meters determine the rhythm of the tunes), and fiddle, which appeared in Scotland in the 17th century. These components are part of today’s dance music as well, which is played across Scotland at country dances, Highland balls and frequently at weddings.

  • Little survives of the early music of England, by which is meant the music that was used by the people before the establishment of musical notation in the medieval period. Some surviving folk music may have had its origins in this period, although the melodies played by morris dancers and other traditional groups can also be from a later period. Some of the earliest music to remain is either church music, or else is in the form of carols (örömének) or ballads dating from the 16th century or earlier. Troubadours carried an international courtly style across Western Europe. It was common in times before copyright for melodies to be interchangeable (felcserélhető), and the same melodies have often been used (with differing words) for secular and religious purposes.

Medieval Schools & Universities

  • There were many different kinds of schools in medieval England\, though few children received their sometimes dubious benefit. There were small, informal schools held in the parish church, song schools at cathedrals, almonry schools attached to monasteries, chantry (alapítványi) schools, guild (céhes iskola) schools, preparatory grammar schools, and full grammar schools. The curriculum of theses schools was limited to basics such as learning the alphabet, Psalters (zsoltár), and religious rites (liturgia) and lessons such as the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins. The grammar schools added to this Latin grammar, composition, and translation. In addition to these schools there were also privately maintained schools like Winchester and Eton. The most famous public school, Eton, was founded by Henry VI in 1440. Although “public” in its name Eton was anything but public. They were, and still are, elite boarding schools for the rich or ambitious. A grammar school was exactly what it sounds like; a place for teaching Latin grammar.

  • Most schools had no books and the students were taught by rote and the skill of individual masters. Most masters were minor clergy, who themselves were often uninterestedly educated. Classes at some of the larger schools could be as large as 100 or more boys (no girls, though they were accepted at some of the small local schools), and the school day lasted as long as 13 hours with breaks for meals. And to top it students could expect to be beaten regularly with a birch rod (nyírfavessző).

  • Britain is a pioneer of higher education. The University as we know it actually began in the 12th century as gatherings of students around popular masters. The university consisted of people, not buildings. The buildings came later as a recognition of something that already existed. In a way, Oxford was never founded; it grew. Cambridge University was founded by students fleeing from Oxford after one of the many episodes of violence between the university and the town of Oxford. University students chose their own course of studies, hired their own professors, and picked their own hours of study. They were free to leave one professor if they were tired of him, and join another, attending several lectures before deciding whether to pay him or not. The only books were the professors, and students wrote notes on parchment (pergamenbőr) or, more commonly, on wax tablets.

  • Most classical scientific treatises of classical antiquity (in Greek) were unavailable, leaving only simplified summaries and compilations. Even though, with the beginning of the Renaissance of the 12th century, interest in natural investigation was renewed. Science developed in this golden period of Scholastic philosophy focused on logic and advocated empiricism, perceiving nature as a coherent system of laws that could be explained in the light of reason. With this view the medieval men of science went in search of explanations for the phenomena of the universe and achieved important advances in areas such as scientific methodology and physics, among many others. Prominent British representatives of Scholasticism were Rogert Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Joh Duns Scotus and William of Occam.

  • Grosseteste is best known as an original thinker for his work concerning what would today be called science or the scientific method. He wrote about astronomy, the “metaphysics of light”, mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences, on tides and tidal movements and also on the rainbow. Roger Bacon, the author of Opus Majus, placed considerable emphasis on empiricism, he is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method. Duns Scotus is considered one of the most important Franciscan theologians and was the founder of Scotism, a special form of Scholasticism. He began the systematic examination of what differentiates theology from philosophy and science began. He was one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages, nicknamed “Doctor Subtilis” for his penetrating manner of thought. William of Occam was one of the major figures of medieval thought and found himself at the center of the major intellectual and political controversies of the fourteenth century. Although commonly known for Occam’s Razor, the methodological procedure that bears his name, he also produced significant works on logic, physics, and theology.


  • The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the early 16th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century. This era in English cultural history is sometimes referred to as “the age of Shakespeare” or “the Elizabethan era”, taking the name of the English Renaissance’s most famous author and most important monarch, respectively; however it is worth remembering that these names are rather misleading: Shakespeare was not an especially famous writer in his own time, and the English Renaissance covers a period both before and after Elizabeth’s reign.

  • The English Renaissance differs from the Italian Renaissance in several ways. First, the dominant art forms of the English Renaissance were literature and music, and the Visual arts were much less significant than in the Italian Renaissance. The English period began far later than the Italian, which is usually considered to begin with Dante, Petrarch and Giotto in the early 1300s, and was moving into Mannerism and the Baroque by the 1550s or earlier. In contrast, the English Renaissance can only be said to begin, shakily, in the 1520s, and continued until perhaps 1620.

  • The notion of calling this period “The Renaissance” is a modern invention, having been popularized by the historian Jacob Burckhardt in the nineteenth century. The idea of the Renaissance has come under increased criticism by many cultural historians, and some have contended that the “English Renaissance” has no real tie with the artistic achievements and aims of the northern Italian artists (Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello) who are closely identified with the Renaissance. Historians have also begun to consider the term as an unnecessarily loaded word that implies an unambiguously positive “rebirth” from the supposedly more primitive Middle Ages. Some historians have asked the question “a renaissance for whom?” pointing out, for example, that the status of women in society arguably declined during the Renaissance. Many historians and cultural historians now prefer to use the term “early modern” for this period, a neutral term that highlights the period as a transitional one that led to the modern world, but does not have any positive or negative connotations.

  • Despite such doubts the Italian and English Renaissances were similar in sharing a specific musical aesthetic. In the late 16th century Italy was the musical center of Europe, and one of the principal forms which emerged from that singular explosion of musical creativity was the madrigal. Soon it arrived to England. English poetry was exactly at the right stage of development for this transplantation to occur, since forms such as the sonnet were uniquely adapted to setting as madrigals. Composers such as Thomas Morley, the only contemporary composer to set Shakespeare, and whose work survives, published collections of their own, roughly in the Italian manner but yet with a unique Englishness. Other composers of the English Renaissance music scene include John Taverner and Thomas Tallis.

  • By the middle 16th century there were distinct styles of music enjoyed by the differing social classes. Renaissance influences made the acquisition of musical knowledge an almost essential attribute for the nobleman and woman, and the ability to play an instrument became an almost mandatory (kötelező) social grace. The Renaissance influence also internationalised courtly music in terms of both instruments and content: the lute (lant), dulcimer (cimbalom) and early forms of the harpsichord (csembaló) were played; ballads and madrigals were sung. For other social classes instruments like the pipe, tabor (tamburindob), bagpipe, shawm (nádsíp), and hurdy gurdy (forgólant) accompanied folk music and community dance. The fiddle gradually grew in popularity. Differing regional styles of folk music developed in geographically separated areas such as Northumbria, London and the West Country.

  • Renaissance architecture arrived in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, having first spread through the Low Countries where among other features it acquired versions of the Dutch gable, and Flemish strapwork in geometric designs adorning the walls. The new style tended to manifest itself in large square tall houses. The first great exponent of Renaissance architecture in England was Inigo Jones (1573–1652), who had studied architecture in Italy. Jones returned to England full of enthusiasm for the new movement and immediately began to design such buildings as the Queen’s House at Greenwich in 1616. These works, with their clean lines, and symmetry were revolutionary in England. See Appendix 1 Section E.

  • The Tudor period also saw new development in the building of town houses and country houses. The Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII meant that there were large areas of land freed up for exploitation by the newly wealthy gentry class. New farms were built upon former monastic lands, and labourers’ cottages for tenants who worked the land. Curiously, changes in architectural style resulted in buildings shrinking; becoming more intimate. Rather than the move towards spaciousness so evident in the late Gothic period, Tudor architecture focussed on details. Windows and doors were smaller, but more ornately decorated, more complex.

  • Chimneys and enclosed fireplaces became common for the first time. Indeed, the Tudor chimney is one of the most striking aspects of this period. One of the reasons for the increased use of chimneys was the widespread adoption of coal as fuel. The second noticeable characteristic of Tudor architecture was the use of brick – a luxury item at that time – in building. Some bricks were imported into England, brought back in ships that exported English wool to the continent. Others were made in brickyards established in East Anglia by Dutch immigrants. In several areas of England, notably Cheshire, Lancashire, and Warwickshire, wooden houses, generally in oak, are more numerous than brick. Wood was used to create a skeleton which was filled in with brick or plaster.

  • After the Reformation many landowners enclosed common land to create parks for keeping deer or cattle. This ‘natural’ landscape gave way to formal gardens near the house, still sheltered from the outside world by hedges or walls. The Tudors followed Italian influence in creating gardens which mirrored the alignment of the house, creating a harmony of line and proportion that had been missing in the medieval period. For the first time since the Romans left, statues were once more popular garden ornaments. But the most prominent contribution of the Tudors to gardening was the knot garden. Knots were intricate patterns of lawn hedges, usually of box, intended to be viewed from the mount, or raised walks. The spaces between the hedges were often filled with flowers, shrubs, or herbs. See Appendix 1 Section E.

  • From the Renaissance until the early 18th century the best painters working in England were imported, often from Flanders. These included amongst others Hans Holbein the Younger, Van Dyck and Rubens. The only exception is for the portrait miniature, where a strong English tradition began with the Elizabethan Nicholas Hilliard, who had learnt from Continental artists, and continued with Isaac Oliver and many other artists. By the following century a number of significant English painters of full-size portraits began to emerge, and towards the end of the century the other great English speciality, of landscape painting, also began to be practiced by natives. Both were heavily influenced by Anthony Van Dyck in particular. Whereas the Renaissance painting never established itself in the British Isles English literature, Elizabethan stage and Restoration comedies was deeply affected by the fresh intellectual impetus of the Renaissance. You will find considerable information on these in your literature notes.

  • Beside poets and playwrights the most important author of the time was Sir Thomas More and Francis Bacon. Sir Thomas More was an English lawyer, author, and statesman. During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a leading humanist scholar and occupied many public offices, including that of Lord Chancellor. More coined the word “utopia”, a name he gave to an ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in a book published in 1516. He is chiefly remembered for his principled refusal to accept King Henry VIII’s claim to be supreme head of the Church of England, a decision which led to his execution for treason. In 1935, four hundred years after his death, More was canonized in the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI, and was later declared the patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

  • Francis Bacon was one of the leading figures in natural philosophy and in the field of scientific methodology in the period of transition from the Renaissance to the early modern era. As a lawyer, member of Parliament, and Queen's Counsel, Bacon wrote on questions of law, state and religion, as well as on contemporary politics; but he also published texts in which he speculated on possible conceptions of society, and he pondered questions of ethics (Essays) even in his works on natural philosophy To the present day Bacon is well known for his treatises on empiricist natural philosophy (The Advancement of Learning, Novum Organum Scientiarum) and for his doctrine of the idols, which he put forward in his early writings, as well as for the idea of a modern research institute, which he described in Nova Atlantis.

  • William Gilbert was an English physician and a natural philosopher. He was an early Copernican, and passionately rejected both the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy and the Scholastic method of university teaching. Scientifically, Gilbert is known for his investigations of magnetism and electricity. Gilbert is credited as one of the originators of the term electricity, and many regard him as the father of electrical engineering or father of electricity.

  • An outstanding natural philosopher (natural scientist) of the Renaissance period was William Harvey, English medical doctor/physician, who is credited with being the first to correctly describe in the Western world and in exact detail, the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped around the body by the heart. Harvey based most of his conclusions on careful observations recorded during vivisections made of various animals during controlled experiments, being the first person to study biology quantitatively. He did an experiment to see how much blood would pass through the heart each day. Harvey further concluded that the heart acted like a pump that forced blood to move throughout the body instead of the prevailing theory of his day that blood flow was caused by a sucking action of the heart and liver

The Baroque

  • The origin of the term “baroque” is uncertain, though it may have evolved from the Portuguese barocco, meaning a grotesque or deformed pearl. The term was originally applied cynically, much as the term “Gothic” was initially one of contempt. What characterises Baroque as an architectural style? Baroque utilizes bold masses of curved shapes, strong lines, and rich colours. Above all, Baroque is sensual; decorative elements appeal almost viscerally (zsigerileg) to the senses in a way no other style can match. Yet that appeal is theatrical, intensely three-dimensional, almost grotesque in its lavish (gazdag) use of curves and embellishment (ékesség). Little attention is paid to proportion, indeed it could be said that the only proportion observed is one of overwhelming the viewer with exaggeration.

  • Baroque architecture, though extremely popular on the European continent, had arrived late and enjoyed only a brief flowering in England. It was Sir Christopher Wren who spearheaded the birth of the English Baroque style, which differed from the continental models by clarity of design and subtle taste for classicism. Within days of the Great Fire of London (1666) Wren presented a plan to Charles for rebuilding the entire city of London along classical lines, with broad tree-lined avenues cutting through the former warren of twisting streets and alleys. His plans were however too costly, thus rejected. Nevertheless Wren rebuilt fifty three churches and the St Paul Cathedral, where Baroque aesthetics are apparent primarily in dynamic structure and multiple changing views. The height of Baroque architectural forms comes with Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Each was capable of a fully developed architectural statement, yet they preferred to work together, most notably at Castle Howard (1699) and Blenheim Palace (1705). See Appendix 1 Section F.

  • If the Tudors were heavily influenced by Italian ideas the Stuarts were slaves to the French fashion for formal gardens. The chief feature of this French style is a broad avenue sweeping away from the house, bordered by rectangular parterres (ágyás) made of rigidly formal low hedges. The prime survivors of this style can be seen at Blickling Hall (Norfolk). An offshoot of the French style was provided by the Dutch, who advocated more water, flower bulbs (virághagyma), trees planted in tubs (dézsa), and topiary (nyesett bokrú kert). Westbury Court (Gloucestershire) shows this Dutch style.

  • Baroque music in England is equal to the genius in Henry Purcell, who despite dying at age 36, produced a profusion of music and was widely recognized in his lifetime. He was familiar with the innovations of the Italian style composers; however, his patrons were different, and his musical output was prodigious. Rather than being a painstaking craftsman, Purcell was a fluid composer who was able to shift from simple anthems and useful music such as marches, to grandly scored vocal music and music for the stage. His catalogue runs to over 800 works. The composition of his chamber opera Dido and Aeneas forms a very important landmark in the history of English dramatic music and is considered the first genuine English opera. Purcell was also one of the first great keyboard composers, whose work still has influence and presence. He served as an organist at both Westminster Abbey and at the Chapel Royal.

  • Georg Friedrich Händel in Halle, Germany, he spent most of his adult life in England, becoming a subject of the British crown in 1727. His most famous works are Messiah, an oratorio set to texts from the King James Bible, Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Strongly influenced by the techniques of the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the English composer Henry Purcell, his music was known to many significant composers who came after him, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

  • The Royal Society was founded in 1660, only a few months after the Restoration of King Charles II, by members of one or two either secretive or informal societies already in existence. It claims to be the oldest such society still in existence. The Royal Society enjoyed the confidence and official support of the restored monarchy. The motto of the Royal Society, “Nullius in Verba” (Latin: "On the words of no one"), signifies the Society’s commitment to establishing the truth of scientific matters through experiment rather than through citation of authority. Although this seems obvious today, the philosophical basis of the Royal Society differed from previous philosophies such as Scholasticism, which established scientific truth based on deductive logic, concordance with divine providence and the citation of such ancient authorities as Aristotle.

  • One of the best known early members (and also president) of the Royal Society was Sir Isaac Newton. He is considered by historians of science to have crowned and ended the scientific revolution with the 1687 publication of his Principia Mathematica, which lays the foundation of what is known as modern physics. He is most famous for realising that the same force is responsible for movements of celestial and terrestrial bodies, that is gravity. It is commonly reported that he made this realisation when he was sitting underneath an apple tree and was hit on the head by a falling apple; this story is, however, apocryphal.

  • Thomas Hobbes is remembered today for his work on political philosophy, although he contributed to a diverse array of fields, including history, geometry, theology, ethics, general philosophy, and political science. Additionally, Hobbes’ account of human nature as self-interested cooperation has proved to be an enduring theory in the field of philosophical anthropology. In his most celebrated volume, Leviathan, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of societies and legitimate governments. The wars of religion in France and the civil wars in England induced him to develop a philosophy where he considered that only the absolutism of State, to which men entrust by contract the care to govern them, is able to preserve right and peace. Thomas Hobbes, consequently, refused the power by divine right. As regards morals, he thought that man must act according to a “utility selfishness” which rises from the instinct of self-preservation and of domination. Thomas Hobbes thought that experiment is the only basis of any knowledge. His rationalist, materialist and anticlerical thought – it denies the existence of soul – inspired the French philosopher as Diderot, Holbach and Voltaire.

  • John Locke was a philosopher (the first British Empiricist), an Oxford academic, medical researcher. Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by these institutions. Locke’s monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding concerns itself with determining the limits of human understanding in respect to God, the self, natural kinds and artefacts, as well as a variety of different kinds of ideas. It was in this bock that first in its history philosophy hoped to define the self through a continuity of “consciousness”. Locke postulated that the mind was a “blank slate” or “tabula rasa”; that is, contrary to Cartesian or Christian philosophy, Locke maintained that people are born without innate ideas. As far as his political philosophy is concerned he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.

  • George Berkley also known as Bishop Berkeley, was an Irish philosopher. His primary philosophical achievement was the advancement of a theory he called “immaterialism” (later referred to as “subjective idealism” by others). This theory, summed up in his dictum, "Esse est percipi" ("To be is to be perceived"), contends that individuals can only directly know sensations and ideas of objects, not abstractions such as “matter”.

Georgian Period

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