The English : A Portrait of a People, Paperback

The English : A Portrait of a People Paperback

3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In "The English" Jeremy Paxman sets out to find about the English.

Not the British overall, not the Scots, not the Irish or Welsh, but the English.

Why do they seem so unsure of who they are? Jeremy Paxman is to many the embodiment of Englishness yet even he is sometimes forced to ask: who or what exactly are the English? And in setting about addressing this most vexing of questions, Paxman discovers answers to a few others.

Like: Why do the English actually enjoy feeling persecuted?

What is behind the English obsession with games? How did they acquire their odd attitudes to sex and to food?

Where did they get their extraordinary capacity for hypocrisy? Covering history, attitudes to foreigners, sport, stereotypyes, language and more, "The English" brims over with stories and anecdotes that provide a fascinating portrait of a nation and its people. "Intelligent, well-written, informative and funny...A book to chew on, dip into, quote from and exploit in arguments". (Andrew Marr, "Observer"). "Bursting with good things". ("Daily Telegraph"). Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include "Empire", "On Royalty", "The English" and "The Political Animal".

He lives in Oxfordshire.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780141032955



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I don't particularly like it, but it's hard to say exactly why.I suppose part of the problem is that our Jeremy can't help going into sneer mode occasionally (anyone who has seen him on TV knows exactly what such a Jeremy sneer looks like). Take this comment about the English and food: 'For the majority of people, eating out is to consume fat-filled fast food, and to eat in, to be the victim of something prepackaged in industrial quantities in a factory somewhere.'The other problem is that on practically every subject, the outcome is neither one thing nor the other. So the English are as they always were, yet they're also quite changed. They are gentle, kind people, who are also aggressive hooligans, and so on. As an analysis, it lacks clear outcomes.All that said, it's an interesting and entertaining book. What's certainly true is that there is more focus now on being English. Where once the English tended to label themselves British, we are finally coming out as something individual, with a distinct identity. And that isn't a bad thing.

Review by

Hmmm I've just finished reading this book and as someone who is English I don't really recognise a lot of cultural things Paxman describes and I'm not sure that his England is mine, as an example I live in the suburbs of London and don't know anyone whose home has a name rather than a number. Having said that, there are some very familiar things described in the book. But there is, for me, one glaring omission about the inclusiveness of the English culture and how as a nation we have adopted customs and pratices from other cultures such as tea drinking, OK these were cultures we colonised but they have enriched our culture.