BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Essentially British? White Tribe (2000)
In the Classroom


Clip One: You might like to focus on Darcus's comment regarding English nationalists who are 'obsessed with the past'. Can history be dangerous? How can it be manipulated to serve political or ideological ends? What are the duties of the historian in writing about the past?

Clip Two: Why not use the clip as a starter for a lesson looking at how the social hierarchies in England (and Britain) have changed. Darcus refers to Mary's ancestors as 'the landed gentry'. If Mary had been born in the 19th century, what type of life might she have led? How does that differ from the freedoms and rights she enjoys today? What have been the most significant causes of social change in England (and/or the UK) over the last 150 years?

Darcus suggests that hunting has moved from being an 'archaic ritual' to act of rebellion - a symbolic stand made by a aristocratic or privileged minority. The clip offers a way into a KS3 lesson on blood-sports and the Victorians - why did hunting avoid the ban? Alternatively, what other traditions and rituals can students think of that have their roots in earlier centuries?

The clip also touches on ancestry and heritage. Mary takes a lot of pride in the history of Northumberland and her family's roots. How important is family history and an awareness of history in general? To what extent are students influenced by the past or their 'roots'?

Late in the clip Darcus says he has had 'England in his head' since a boy. He later mentions he grew up in rural Trinidad. Why not use this as the starting point for a lesson looking at the impact of the British Empire on the Caribbean, including emigration to England (Windrush etc.). The Colony (1964) in which West Indian immigrants from Birmingham talk about their relationship with the 'mother country', is very interesting title that could be to develop this topic further (link on the right).

Useful films for comparison

  • Springtime in an English Village (1948): compare a government backed film with the more personal, reflective approach of I'm British But....
  • Return to Life (1960): an extremely sympathetic Central Office of Information film dealing with the experiences of Eastern European refugees adapting to life in the UK
  • I'm British But...(1989): a group of young Asian Britons from Glasgow, Belfast, London and South Wales discuss their plural identities.


Clip One: Discuss the connotations of the programme's title, White Tribe, before watching any extracts. What do students imagine the film will be about? Challenge students to answer Darcus's question - what kind of a place will England be in 50 years time? What kind of impact will globalisation have on our sense of national or regional identity? How important do students think English or British traditions and customs are?

Clip Two: Clip two is full of Citizenship discussion points! What do students know about the Countryside Alliance? What are they fighting for and why do they feel, as Darcus suggests, 'oppressed'? Do students sympathise with the aims of the Alliance, in particular the call to end the ban on hunting?

Is hunting a moral issue - what do students think about Parliament's decision to ban it? Darcus says he feels that the hunt represents something genuinely English. Do students agree? In any case, what do we mean by genuinely English?

Mary mentions that 'minorities' across Britain are treated with empathy and respect and feels justified in demanding the same treatment; she sees herself as part of a 'minority'. Why might some people find this difficult to understand? Darcus is surprised by how quickly Mary wins him over - in a later scene he admits that in the past he would have dismissed her. What can we learn from Darcus and Mary's interaction about the dangers of stereotypes?