Revealed: Being Northern dates back to Roman era

Super League Grand Final.
Leeds Rhinos v Wigan warriors.
Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Super League Grand Final. Leeds Rhinos v Wigan warriors. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

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YOU could be forgiven for thinking it began with Boycott, or even the Brontës - but the singular trait of northernness, it emerged today, dates all the way back to the Romans.

Though they wore helmets and not cloth caps, those distant ancestors laid down the template for what we now know as northern culture.

And despite the stereotypical qualities of grit and understatement, the region’s character owes as much to the romantic poets as to Bennett and Barstow.

A special “northern” edition of the scholarly Journal of Cultural Research cites William Wordsworth and Robin Hood as key influences on northern attitudes to leisure, gender, race and class.

The rest of the northern milieu, says the journal, we simply made up.

As for Yorkshireness, it’s little more than a pretence, built on memories and sustained by cricket.

The north’s national sport of rugby league - in which Leeds Rhinos are currently Super League champions - has had its northernness “imposed upon it” by southern rugby union fans.

Professor Karl Spracklen of Leeds Beckett University, said: “The idea of northernness is an invention of ours, with an imagined community and invented traditions, which northerners want to prevail.”

The concept of being “from the north” began, he said, with the Romans, Vikings and Robin Hood, and continued through the age of the romantic poets and authors.

Prof Spracklen said rugby league, art and television all captured “some magical truth about the hills, valleys, mills and farms supposedly unique to the north”.

But he said those visions were “shaped by the constraints placed on them by people with cultural power in the south”.

Her colleague Dr Kristyn Gorton said writer Sally Wainwright’s downtrodden police officer Catherine Cawood in the current BBC hit Happy Valley had also “challenged norms” by writing from the perspective of a northern working-class woman.

The journal tackles the idea of Yorkshireness head-on, in a piece by Dr Thomas Fletcher and Spencer Swain of Leeds Beckett University.

They write: “Like northernness, it is a product of invented cultural traditions, assumptions and memories which is maintained and encouraged through the sport of cricket.”

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