The English

The English : A Portrait of a People

3.54 (1,591 ratings by Goodreads)
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Not so long ago, writes Jeremy Paxman, the English were "polite, unexcitable, reserved, and had hot-water bottles instead of a sex-life". Today the end of empire has killed off the Bulldog Breed - "fearless and philistine, safe in taxis and invaluable in shipwrecks" - and transformed the great public schools. Princess Diana was mourned with the effusive emotionalism of an Italian saint. Leader-writers in "The Times" even praise the sexual skills of English lovers ...So what are the defining features of "Englishness"? How can a country of football hooligans have such an astonishingly low murder rate? Does the nation's sense of itself extend to millions of black, Asian and other immigrant Britons? Is it grounded in arrogant, nostalgic fantasy or can it form the basis for building a realistic future within Europe? To answer these crucial questions, Paxman looks for clues in the English language, literature, luke-warm religion and "curiously passionless devotion" to cricket. He explores attitudes to Catholics, the countryside, intellectuals, food and the French. And he brings together insights from novelists, sociologists and gentleman farmers; the editor of "This England" magazine (launched in 1967 with the slogan "as refreshing as a cup of tea"); a banker enthusiastic about the "English vice" of flagellation; and a team at the OED looking for the first occurrence of phrases like "bad hair day" and "the dog's bollocks".show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 148.6 x 214.1 x 18.5mm | 358.33g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0140267239
  • 9780140267235
  • 685,466

Review Text

The end of Empire, the cracks in the self-styled United Kingdom, the pressures of European monetary union and the uncontrollability of international business are forcing the English to take a long, hard look at themselves. Paxman helps this process along by asking 'What are the defining features of the English identity?' and 'Is there such a thing as the English race?' In search of answers to these and other questions he explores English attitudes to intellectuals, the countryside, sex, food, manners, Catholics, the French and much else in this trenchant but good-humoured examination of the English on the verge of the millennium. (Kirkus UK)show more

Table of contents

The land of the lost content; funny foreigners; the English empire; "true born Eglishmen; we happy few; the parish of senses; home alone; there always was an England; the ideal englishman; meet the wife; old country, new country;show more

Rating details

1,591 ratings
3.54 out of 5 stars
5 15% (242)
4 38% (601)
3 36% (568)
2 9% (149)
1 2% (31)
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