From the very earliest days of English history, whether on the battlefield at Hastings or as a Tommy in the British Army, the English soldier has fought almost constantly for the past 1500 years. He has been involved in every major conflict and fought on every continent.
The martial spirit of our people is something of which to be proud, but it is sometimes hard to reconcile that a country that prides itself on its common sense and the value that it places on restraint and tolerance is, even in modern times, so predisposed to drunken violence and mass thuggery. By reading through the list of quotations that we've put together on this site it is clear that, far from being a recent phenomenon, it is actually one of our more enduring traits. Whether you like it or not, it is the flip side of the same coin that makes up the English character. As recognisable today as it has been for the last 1500 years.
Without trying to excuse it (and it's certainly no comfort to the many who have been totally innocent victims of it), it may be that some of the same character traits that appear when we see English football hooligans battling with opposing fans or foreign riot police, are the same character traits that have brought us so many victories on the battlefield over the last millennium.
Following football violence in Turin, Jeremy Paxman in his book "The English" quotes the writer Bill Burford as he watched a mob of English football hooligans being chased by fully armed Italian riot police. "The chase continued until someone shouted that they were all English, and that the English don't run. The hooligans came abruptly to a halt, turned around and charged back into the Italian police". From Crecy and Agincourt through to the D-Day landings and Goosegreen, how many times has this type of mentality saved the day? These were not places for shrinking violets and, in the long run, each battle helped assure our independence and our very way of life.
Following the violence Mr. Burford was asked by an Italian, "Why do you English behave like this? Is it because you are an island race? Is it because you don't feel European? Is it because you lost the Empire?".
Paxman goes on to say that, "The only honest answer he could have given is that it's how part of the English population has always been. Far from being ashamed of their behaviour, they see fighting and drunkenness as part of their birthright. It is the way they proclaim their identity".
Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that fighting is something we have always done. For better or for worse, it is an undeniable part of what we are.