The English: A Portrait of a People (Penguin Celebrations)

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9780141035147: The English: A Portrait of a People (Penguin Celebrations)

In The English Jeremy Paxman sets out to find about the English. Not the British overall, not the Scots, not the Irish or Welsh, but the English. Why do they seem so unsure of who they are? Jeremy Paxman is to many the embodiment of Englishness yet even he is sometimes forced to ask: who or what exactly are the English? And in setting about addressing this most vexing of questions, Paxman discovers answers to a few others. Like: Why do the English actually enjoy feeling persecuted? What is behind the English obsession with games? How did they acquire their odd attitudes to sex and to food? Where did they get their extraordinary capacity for hypocrisy? Covering history, attitudes to foreigners, sport, stereotypyes, language and much, much more, The English brims over with stories and anecdotes that provide a fascinating portrait of a nation and its people. 'Intelligent, well-written, informative and funny...A book to chew on, dip into, quote from and exploit in arguments' Andrew Marr, Observer 'Bursting with good things' Daily Telegraph Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Empire, On Royalty, The English and The Political Animal. He lives in Oxfordshire.

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Review:

What is it about the English? Not the British overall, not the Scots, not the Irish or the Welsh, but the English. Why do they seem so unsure of who they are? As Jeremy Paxman remarks in his preface to The English, being English "used to be so easy". Now, with the Empire gone, with Wales and Scotland moving into more independent postures, with the troubling specter of a united Europe (and despite the raucous hype of "Cool Britannia"), the English seem to have entered a collective crisis of national identity.

Jeremy Paxman has set himself the task of finding just what exactly is going on. Why, he wonders, "do the English seem to enjoy feeling so persecuted? What is behind the English obsession with games? How did they acquire their odd attitudes to sex and food? Where did they get their extraordinary capacity for hypocrisy?" He ranges widely in pursuit of answers, sifting through literature, cinema, and history. It is an intriguing investigation, encompassing many aspects of national life and character (such as it is), including the obligatory visit to that baffling phenomenon, the funeral of Princess Diana. Yet Paxman finds something fresh and interesting to say about even that now rather threadbare topic. In the end, he seems to find further questions to ask instead of answers. But why not? To him it is a sign that the English are acquiring a new sense of self. And some indication of this might lie in the obvious response to his remark that the English, being top of the British Imperial tree, had nicknames for their fellow nationalities--Jock, Taffy, Paddy, and Mick--but there was no corresponding name for an Englishman. Of course, there is one now, and it comes from one of the bits of empire to which so many undesirables were exported: Whinging Pom. --Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Friends in High Places, The English and The Political Animal. He lives in Oxfordshire.

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