The English National Character: The History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair

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Overview

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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300120523
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 10.96 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Mandler is reader in modern history, University of Cambridge, and fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He is the author of, among other books, The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home, published by Yale University Press.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
Introduction     1
England Before Character     7
The English People     27
'Civilization' and its Discontents     29
The Impact of 1832     39
English Traits     52
Anglo-Saxons     59
The Impacts of 1848 and 1867     60
What Makes a Nation? Race and Civilization     72
Teutomania     86
Teutonic Virtues     100
Great Britons     106
Character under Siege     107
Patriotic Alternatives     122
Britishness and Englishness     133
Little England     143
The Impact of War and Democracy     143
From John Bull to 'Little Man'     163
As Others See Us     176
England, Whose England?     184
England After Character?     196
After die War     197
After Suez     215
After the Nation?     229
Acknowledgements     243
Notes     246
Bibliography     304
Index     337
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