A certain Essexion of society
June 27, 2019 6:32 AM   Subscribe

The invention of Essex is an article by Tim Burrows discussing the place that Essex plays in British society and self-perception, its link to class prejudice and the sometimes tenuous relationship between imaginary Essex and the actual bloody place.
posted by Dim Siawns (2 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed that read. The part about the changes in English society that led the rise of (the evil) Margaret Thatcher were something I never seen before.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:11 AM on June 27, 2019

Good piece, thanks for sharing. I would have liked if it had spent a bit more time on the pre-20th century perception of Essex. It seems to have received a lot of the same shit that parts East Anglia did, as a shadowy home to half-civilised fen-dwellers. The point about every nation having an Essex-equivalent is useful, I can think of several locations in France that have hit on analogous roles in French consciousness to the county at various points in their history.

It could perhaps have done with a bit more depth on Brexit-era stereotyping beyond the stuff about Francois at the end but the deep-dive into the 1940's through the 90's was a solid block of good, succinct social history. Excellent stuff and a good use for the long form.

Essex man, in Heffer’s portrait, was in thrall to excess without necessarily being able to handle it. “When one walks through the City most evenings, the pools of vomit into which one may step have usually been put there by Essex man, whose greatly enhanced wealth has exceeded his breeding in terms of alcoholic capacity,” he wrote. The phrase, Heffer said, was a deliberate echo of “Neanderthal man” – implying that Essex man was the missing link between the lumpen proles of the new town estates and the bright new citizens emerging under the stewardship of Margaret Thatcher’s party. The editorial was published just before the prime minister’s final Conservative party conference and seemed to rubber-stamp her legacy.

It's wild how much of British culture is transparently about avoiding holding old money Tory scum in the contempt they deserve, by any means necessary. Look at the kid gloves treament Boris is getting, his shittiness is brushed off as mild crassness or 'eccentricity' in a way that someone without the deep Oxbridge connection could never expect.

Also this line - "If you can visualise the map of Great Britain as a wild-haired angry monster shouting at Ireland, then Essex rests above its rectum, the Thames Estuary" - struck me a bit too close to the easy Essex stereotyping Burrows digs into in the rest of the article but it's certainly evocative.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 3:59 AM on June 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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