Will there always be an England?
By Margaret Lowrie
December 21, 1999
Web posted at: 10:06 a.m. EST (1506 GMT)
This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.
LONDON (CNN) -- At the start of this millennium, Britain was under attack from invading Danes. The Battle of Hastings was yet to be fought and the Magna Carta yet to be signed.
Britain moved from medieval times through centuries of empire that peaked as it ruled more than a quarter of the people on Earth.
This century, two world wars shook its society, its empire gained independence and, now, political power is partially devolving from London to Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
What does being British mean today? A chaotic mix of the Merry Olde and the modern.
Only recently, the British might have defined themselves through the same cliches in which others saw them -- stiff upper lip, bowlers and bobbies, cricket and custard, fish and chips.
But at the start of the next millennium, their view of themselves is changing.
Pubs compete with trendy wine bars. There seems to be a McDonald's on every high street, but just try to find the dessert "Spotted Dick" (a steamed suet and currant pudding with syrup) on an everyday restaurant menu.
Mobile phones are a more common sight than the disappearing red phone booth. Also disappearing is the inherited power of the House of Lords. Some here wouldn't mind if the House of Windsor were next.
Newspapers warn that Britain faces a moral precipice. The British stand divided on a political and in many ways psychological precipice, too, over how it fits into Europe.
The "cuppa" -- hot tea -- is still the defining national drink. But a Starbucks and a Coffee Republic both recently opened near CNN's central London office. That makes 10 coffee outlets within sipping distance. In the same radius, no place offers "high tea."
Olde Worlde and New World are colliding, indeed.
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