THE ENGLISH by Jeremy Paxman
Kirkus Star


A Portrait of a People
Email this review


A deeply serious yet wonderfully lively, witty, and heartfelt study of the Mother Country.

Who, really, are the English? At a time when Great Britain seems to be devolving into its constituent parts, it’s not an idle question. Nor should it be for Americans—not only for those who trace their origins to the Mother Country (is that England or Britain?) but for all those who seek to understand the extraordinary worldwide influence of so relatively few people. Journalist and broadcaster Paxman believes that it is the English—not the Scots, the Welsh, or the Irish—who have lost their own sense of who they are and how they fit into the United Kingdom. They and their culture already possess, he argues, the least distinct identity of any of the ancient peoples of the British Isles. And as the nations of Europe grow into one large state, what’s left of English culture risks disappearing completely into a larger whole. Opening the door to a large subject, Paxman searches for the essence of Englishness in history, religion, geography, behavior, speech, and—well, just about anything that throws light on his subject. He describes what he thinks good and bad, useful and dysfunctional, of what remains of Englishness. With gentle irony and understatement, he tweaks his own people for their hypocrisy, their baffling lack of sharp personality, their insularity. He also nudges them to step out of the shadows, even on their own island. In the end, while remaining somewhat perplexed by his own people—they’re “elusive to the last”—Paxman finds reasons to be optimistic about their future. He believes that they’ve begun to emerge from their go-it-alone, who-cares mentality and started more healthily and effectively to embrace the changing world. To which many Americans will say, “Right on.”

Immensely popular in Britain—and England, too!—Paxman’s informative, fact-studded book will enlighten and entertain everyone who seeks to learn of yesterday’s England and today’s “Cool Britannia.”

Pub Date: July 31st, 2000
ISBN: 1-58567-042-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2000


IndieNo Sex Please, We're Brutish! by Spiros Doikas
by Spiros Doikas
NonfictionSORRY! by Henry Hitchings
by Henry Hitchings
NonfictionHOUSMAN COUNTRY by Peter Parker
by Peter Parker