The English National Character: The History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair
Yale University Press, 2006 - History - 348 pages
What makes the English so English? Is there such a thing as an English national character?
What kind of people are "the English"? What characteristic traits and behavior (if any) distinguish them from other people? This highly original and wide-ranging book traces the surprisingly varied history of ideas among the English about their own "national character" over the past two centuries. Two hundred years ago, the very idea of a national character was novel and not very respectable. Today, it is again difficult for the many who think of themselves as unique individuals to imagine a "national character" that binds the English together in a national unit. But in between, as Britain became a democracy, "national character" became part of the national common sense, reflected in depictions of "John Bull" and his twentieth-century successor, the "Little Man," and in a set of stereotypes about English traits, follies, and foibles. Not at all shy to talk about themselves, the English have produced a vast outpouring of material on what it means to be English--material on which this book draws: lectures, sermons, political speeches, journalism, popular and scholarly books, poems and novels and films, satires and cartoons and caricatures, as well as up-to-the-minute social science and public opinion research. In this comprehensive and lucidly argued book, a leading historian of modern Britain challenges long-held assumptions and familiar stereotypes and proposes an entirely new perspective on what it means to think of oneself as being English.
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acter American Anglo-Saxon anthropology argued Arthur Bryant Bagehot biological Britain British Buckle Celt characteristics Christianity civilizational common Conservative constitution culture Darwinism democracy democratic diversity early elite empire England English character English history English national character Englishman Essays ethnological Europe European example feeling foreign Freeman French gentleman German Gorer historians Home Rule human Ibid idea of national ideal idem imperial individual influence institutions intellectual Irish John Bull Kemble Lamarckian language less Liberal Liberal Unionist liberty London mass Maurois mid-Victorian Mill Mill's modern moral muddling nation of shopkeepers national char national consciousness national identity nature Orwell patriotism period political popular Powell and Pressburger Priestley progress psychology qualities quoted race racial radical Renier Revolution Saxon Scientific Racism Scottish Scottish Enlightenment self-reliance sense social Social Darwinism society spirit Stanley Baldwin stereotype Stubbs Teutonic thinking thought Tory traditional Unionist Victorian writing wrote