By Harry Bingham

Celebratory, witty and highly insightful, Harry Bingham explores the oddities and customs of the British country in a bid to reply to a question which has every person debating – who're we?

For the British, ‘Who are we?’ is an oddly tough query. even supposing our nationwide self-assessment frequently notes a couple of features (we’re creative, tolerant and at the very least we’re no longer French), it lists a torrent of undesirable ones too. Our society is fragmented and degenerate. our children are thugs, our employees ill-educated, our public prone abysmal. We drink an excessive amount of. Our condominium costs are loopy, our legislators sleazy, our roads jammed, our soccer staff garbage. whilst ‘The instances’ invited readers to signify new designs for the backs of British cash, one reader wrote in announcing, ‘How a couple of couple of yobs dancing on a motor vehicle bonnet or a trio of legless ladettes within the gutter?’

Is there quite not anything to be pleased with? British inventors were accountable for myriad marvels we now take without any consideration, from the steam engine to the area extensive net. British scientific and public future health strategies – vaccination, built-in mains sewerage, antiseptic surgical procedure – have kept way more lives than all different scientific strategies prepare. And why cease there? The British empire coated 1 / 4 of the earth’s floor yet used a military smaller than that of Switzerland to exert its rule. the realm speaks our language. Our scientists have gained large numbers of Nobel Prizes. The evolution of ‘habeas corpus’, trial via jury and the abolition of torture aren’t merely British in proposal, yet owe extra to us than to a person else. Our parliamentary democracy has been highly influential in spreading beliefs of liberty and consultant executive around the world.

If the trendy international is richer, freer, extra peaceable, extra democratic and fitter than it was once, then Britain has performed a number one position in that transformation. This publication is set simply that. Taking a specific curiosity within the many stuff that we did first, or most sensible, or such a lot, or have been the single ones ever to do, this ebook focuses in particular on these of our oddities that unfold internationally – every thing from soccer to the rule of thumb of legislation.

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Extra resources for This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World

Sample text

Back in 878, Alfred the Great defeated the Danish army at Edington. The battle checked the hitherto unstopped Viking advance, and enabled Alfred to go on to negotiate a peace agreement which divided the country into two. A line was drawn diagonally across England, running roughly from Chester to London. The area to the south of the line would remain under English rule; the northern part (the ‘Danelaw’) would be ruled by the Danes (though most of those ruled, of course, would be English). Trade carried on across the line, very much as before.

So a silent B was added—and never mind the fact that the word actually came from the French dette, which never had a B anywhere near it. This was a quirky way to justify introducing a totally needless letter, and it was based on a more than generous interpretation of etymology, but there was, at least, an etymological connection, however thin. Medieval scholars were, however, prone to finding connections to the Latin where none actually existed, so our language is littered with plenty of spellings that are unjustifiable on any level.

They brought new concepts of chivalry: courtesy, damsel, honour, romance, tournament, chivalry. The arts, science, the domestic scene—all borrowed heavily from French words: music, paper, melody, grammar, calendar, ointment, pantry, lamp, curtain, chimney. And while the English worked the fields tending the oxen or cows, sheep, calves, deer and pigs (all English words), it was as often as not their French masters who got to eat the resulting beef, mutton, veal, venison and pork (all French ones).

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