The English

The English : A Portrait of A People

3.55 (1,672 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Audio cassette
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This is a brilliantly researched, hugely entertaining study of the English, written and read by Britain's best-known broadcaster. In the light of membership of Europe, the loss of an Empire and a devolved United Kingdom, the English no longer know who they are. Covering every aspect of the English identity (from cricket to Cumberland sausages, St George to Bernie Grant, the "Book of Common Prayer" to Cool Britannia, John Bull to football thugs) and combining popular history with incisive interviews, Jeremy Paxman provides some fascinating and timely answers.
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Product details

  • Audio cassette | 4 pages
  • 106 x 134 x 34mm | 222.26g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • Penguin Audiobooks
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Abridged
  • Abridged edition
  • 0141803347
  • 9780141803340
  • 1,520,831

Review Text

In the politically incorrect 1950s, the popular duo of comedy singer-songwriters Flanders and Swann produced a tongue-in-cheek Song of Patriotic Prejudice with the refrain: 'The English, the English, the English are best; I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest....' Jeremy Paxman (himself English, with a dash of Scots) is less partisan and more detached in this enormously detailed and highly entertaining analysis of the nature of the English. He begins with the basic questions. Who are the English? Where did they come from? How pure are their genes? Not very, is the answer to the last question. Scratch an Englishman and he's likely to bleed at least a few drops of Scots, Irish or Welsh blood - and going further back in history, the Romans left a considerable legacy, as did the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings. Posh people boast that their ancestors 'came over with the Conqueror', and more recently everything has changed with the post-war arrival of Indians, Pakistanis and Afro-Caribbeans (all of whom regard themselves as 'British' rather than English) who are gradually adding a new tincture to the traditional English complexion. So who are the English now, as they move slowly towards an integrated Europe, having built an Empire and and given it away? A confused, mongrel race, but with certain recognizable characteristics collected down the generations - and their self-confidence comfortably intact. Jeremy Paxman, reading his own words exuberantly, patently enjoys his discoveries about the national character, dealing even-handedly with their charms and less-desirable qualities. He concludes that the English are gallant but reckless, arrogant but kind, deeply conservative, obsessed with class, privacy and the weather; courteous, stoic, snobbish, tolerant, proud, creative, suspicious of intellectuals and 'cleverness', bloodyminded, indifferent to other people's opinions. They have a dark side, much of which stems from the upper classes' public-school experiences, which affects their attitudes to women in general and sex in particular. There is a national inability to appreciate the benefits of alcoholic moderation which leads to football hooliganism and senseless fighting. The destruction of the monasteries caused a serious breach in the development of the nation's art from which it has never recovered - but the English have given the world most of its finest theatre and literature. Most of all it has given the world an easily learned, universal and beautiful language with which to communicate across national barriers. (Kirkus UK)
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Table of contents

The land of the lost content; funny foreigners; the English empire; "true born Englishman; we happy few; the parish of senses; home alone; there always was an England; the ideal Englishman; meet the wife; old country, new country.
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About Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire and now lives in London and Oxfordshire. He is the main anchor man for Newsnight, chairman of University Challenge and a frequent reviewer.
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Rating details

1,672 ratings
3.55 out of 5 stars
5 15% (256)
4 38% (635)
3 36% (594)
2 9% (156)
1 2% (31)
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