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The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Professor Denham researches impact of Covid-19 in England

Published: 27 April 2020

National identities are made up of the shared stories, histories and images that, taken together, make us feel we belong to a national community, even though we will never meet most other members of it. These stories provide a link between shared experiences and the way we think about 'who we are' and the way 'people like us behave'. The coronavirus is an experience that touches every household. It will have its own effect on the way we see ourselves, our neighbourhoods and our nation.

It's not just what we feel about what is happening around us that matters. It's the way we will remember, even mythologise, the experience that will shape our future identities. Already we have heard references to earlier wartime crises and also applauded a nation massively more diverse than it was in the 1940s. In a society with fragmented identities and Brexit divisions, in which feeling English or British can have different political meanings, Covid-19 might create new and unifying narratives, underline existing divisions or create new ones.

A new survey from Professor John Denham, Director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics aims to track our experiences, perceptions, values and ideas of the nation as the crisis develops. It will offer the opportunity for respondents to add their own views. By allowing individuals to repeat the survey at regular intervals the survey will be able to track how perceptions change on key issues including our role in the world, our optimism and pessimism, and, indeed, whether this really is a shared experience or one that is very different for different parts of society.

This real time data will be invaluable in enabling us to understand how our identities evolve, and whether the way we remember our national response to the crisis differs from the way we felt at the time.


The Centre for English Identity and Politics aims to develop understanding of the contemporary relationship between national identities and political outlooks and choices. It takes a particular interest in the development of a 'political Englishness' and its relationship to social and economic and to England's governance and democracy.

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