ANGLOMANIA by Ian Buruma


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A breezy history of the political science of England-loving. In the interests of personal disclosure, journalist Buruma (The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan, 1994) begins by confessing his Anglophilic background: a childhood in a snobbishly bourgeois, cricket-watching, club-tie-wearing Hague neighborhood, with an English mother and visits to Berkshire-based grandparents. He concludes with the funeral of “the last Englishman”, a Jewish refugee from Riga who shaped himself into a renowned Oxford don and who upheld Enlightenment-founded English liberalism: Sir Isaiah Berlin. Anglophilia’s double appeal to both snobs and liberals (in the classic sense) propels his diverting tour of England-lovers, including Voltaire and Goethe, exiles and freedom fighters such as Herzen and Mazzini, and eccentrics like the public school fan and Olympics founder Baron de Coubertin and the indefatigable architectural cataloguer Dr. Nikolaus Pevsner (author of the 50-volume Buildings of England), as well as some unreconciled haters, including the Londoner Karl Marx and Queen Victoria’s obstreperous grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm. Although Buruma enlivens his historical examples with contemporary parallels, particularly with modern Americophilia, his discussion is generally Eurocentric, omitting significant instances of Anglomania in Japan and the US, which has produced such great Englishmen as Henry James and T.S. Eliot. Anglomania’s subtext, more relevant for an England facing European union than one dwelling on imperial nostalgia and the ’special relationship,” is how England’s national identity is changing (not necessarily improving) at the century’s close. Its approach to serious subject matter under cover of self-deprecating wit and mild eccentricity is, as Spectator contributor Buruma knows, typically English. As Buruma’s colorfully drawn discursion illustrates, there’ll always be an England, as long as there are Anglophiles.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50206-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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