This study guide will help you analyze the poem “The British (serves 60 million) by Benjamin Zephaniah. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Excerpt from the study guide:
The setting of the poem is never explicitly mentioned, but it is clearly Great Britain. The speaker focuses not on the place itself, but on British society, and wants to point out that anyone living in Britain is a part of British society, no matter where they come from.
Throughout the poem, the speaker mentions nationalities who have lived in Great Britain and have, therefore, contributed to the formation and continued existence of British society. The poem starts by mentioning the original ancestors of the British people: “Picts, Celts and Silures” (l. 1), “Roman conquerors” (l. 3), and “Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings” (l. 6) to which “ lots of Norman French” (l.5) are added. This suggests that, even from its origins, the British nation was a mixture of many populations, which speaks to its diversity.
The second stanza tackles the formation of modern British society. Here, the speaker mentions the many populations that have come to Britain for various reasons. Some are part of the former colonies of the British Empire, such as the “cool Jamaicans” (l. 7). Others move to Britain due to political or economic instabilities in their home countries – such as the Afghans or the Palestinians. The second stanza offers a variety of examples of people coming from different counties and continents, showing that British society continues to be diverse.