This is more than ""A Guide to British Institutions, Traditions and Contemporary Life"" -- as the subtitle indicates. Actually it is an informative portrait of a nation and a people, compactly written, crystal clear, and an evaluation of the intrinsic qualities of the British that have carried them through major crises that would have downed a lesser breed of men. Political, social, educational, economic aspects have their due, written so that one feels- ""This I should know and want to know- if I am to understand British writing, British thinking, if I am to get the most out of visiting England (and Scotland) and meeting her people."" This is not a book to read for the flavor of the countryside- though some of that is there; it is not a ""travelogue"" in any sense. Rather it is a book for study of the place, the people, the government, the social life, the law, the press, and the development of the welfare state as a way of life. A book to own- and to use.