History in London and Stratford-Upon-Avon

After spending a few days in both London and Stratford-Upon-Avon, it has become obvious that both cities are deeply involved in their histories.  When looking at a map of London, you can rarely go much farther than a few blocks before finding either a historical site or a museum. History is engrained into a majority of the buildings in London as well as all of its people. On Thursday, June 2nd, I was walking through Piccadilly Circus with some of my classmates when we noticed that everyone around us had stopped and looked to the sky. A line of helicopters, jets, bombers, and other aircraft paraded across the sky for approximately 5 minutes. The entire time, people on the street cheered and celebrated. This was all to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Along with the flyover, there was a parade, and thousands of people packing the streets of London in celebration. This celebration represents how important history is to the people of London. Even though the Queen is largely ceremonial in the modern-day, the people of England still celebrate it.

The importance of history can also be seen while exploring Stratford-Upon-Avon. From Shakespeare’s Birthplace to the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Shakespeare ice cream boat, Shakespeare’s life has ingrained itself into the town. All around, people are exploring Shakespeare’s past through his old homes, his plays, and even his burial site. The history of England is still very much apparent within its cities no matter the size. The people of England embrace their history and display and celebrate it to its fullest.

My Idea of “Englishness”

Before coming on this trip to London, I had a much more closed-minded view of what life in England was like. All I knew about England had been taught to me during history courses in school and images that I had seen online. This led me to believe that Englishness corresponded with properness. I believed that Englishness meant that the people were almost stuck back in the times where Kings ruled, and people were still getting their heads chopped off.

On my first day in London, I was pretty much instantly proven wrong. Riding the tube from Heathrow to King’s Cross and then to Angel was enough to show me that England is definitely not a country stuck in time but one that very much encompasses the definition of modernity. Watching people quickly move on and off trains and run from station to station to get to where they needed to be was almost impressive. Once we reached the surface, it was more of the same. People would rush past in all directions whether they were on foot, in a taxi, or on a bike. While Englishness still very much holds the definition of “classical” in my mind, I have gained a new respect for the country’s modernity during my time here.