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52 Times Britain was a Bellend: The History You Didn’t Get Taught At School

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JAMES FELTON'S NEW BOOK "SUNBURN" ('AN ASTONISHING PIECE OF WORK' James O'Brien; 'FUNNY, SCATHING AND WITTY' IAN DUNT) IS OUT NOW 'Scurrilous, scandalous and frequently disgusting. I absolutely loved it' James O'Brien Twitter hero James Felton brings you the painfully funny history of Britain you were never taught at school, fully illustrated and chronicling 52 of the most l JAMES FELTON'S NEW BOOK "SUNBURN" ('AN ASTONISHING PIECE OF WORK' James O'Brien; 'FUNNY, SCATHING AND WITTY' IAN DUNT) IS OUT NOW 'Scurrilous, scandalous and frequently disgusting. I absolutely loved it' James O'Brien Twitter hero James Felton brings you the painfully funny history of Britain you were never taught at school, fully illustrated and chronicling 52 of the most ludicrous, weird and downright 'baddie' things we Brits* have done to the world since time immemorial - before conveniently forgetting all about them, of course. Including: - Starting wars with China when they didn't buy enough of our class A drugs - Inventing a law so we didn't have to return objects we'd blatantly stolen from other countries - Casually creating muzzles for women - And almost going to war over a crime committed by a pig 52 TIMES BRITAIN WAS A BELLEND will complete your knowledge of this sceptred isle in ways you never expected. So if you've ever wondered how we put the 'Great' in 'Great Britain', wonder no more . . . *And when we say British, for the most part we unfortunately just mean the English.


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JAMES FELTON'S NEW BOOK "SUNBURN" ('AN ASTONISHING PIECE OF WORK' James O'Brien; 'FUNNY, SCATHING AND WITTY' IAN DUNT) IS OUT NOW 'Scurrilous, scandalous and frequently disgusting. I absolutely loved it' James O'Brien Twitter hero James Felton brings you the painfully funny history of Britain you were never taught at school, fully illustrated and chronicling 52 of the most l JAMES FELTON'S NEW BOOK "SUNBURN" ('AN ASTONISHING PIECE OF WORK' James O'Brien; 'FUNNY, SCATHING AND WITTY' IAN DUNT) IS OUT NOW 'Scurrilous, scandalous and frequently disgusting. I absolutely loved it' James O'Brien Twitter hero James Felton brings you the painfully funny history of Britain you were never taught at school, fully illustrated and chronicling 52 of the most ludicrous, weird and downright 'baddie' things we Brits* have done to the world since time immemorial - before conveniently forgetting all about them, of course. Including: - Starting wars with China when they didn't buy enough of our class A drugs - Inventing a law so we didn't have to return objects we'd blatantly stolen from other countries - Casually creating muzzles for women - And almost going to war over a crime committed by a pig 52 TIMES BRITAIN WAS A BELLEND will complete your knowledge of this sceptred isle in ways you never expected. So if you've ever wondered how we put the 'Great' in 'Great Britain', wonder no more . . . *And when we say British, for the most part we unfortunately just mean the English.

30 review for 52 Times Britain was a Bellend: The History You Didn’t Get Taught At School

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bookguide

    It’s about time I learnt what my history classes at school failed to teach me. I read an article in the Guardian recently that pointed out that most British history syllabuses completely skip over Britain’s role in its colonies and the slave trade, putting the onus on glorifying British Abolitionists such as Wilberforce. As we studied only one short module on the Agrarian and Industrial Revolution and the Peninsular Wars, even Wilberforce was relegated to a single sentence, shared with Shaftesbu It’s about time I learnt what my history classes at school failed to teach me. I read an article in the Guardian recently that pointed out that most British history syllabuses completely skip over Britain’s role in its colonies and the slave trade, putting the onus on glorifying British Abolitionists such as Wilberforce. As we studied only one short module on the Agrarian and Industrial Revolution and the Peninsular Wars, even Wilberforce was relegated to a single sentence, shared with Shaftesbury and child labour reforms. Obviously I have learnt more in the course of my lifetime, but only in the past few years has it occurred to me just how little I know, given I’m interested in history. We went to a small museum in the north of England which had a major display about the slave trade and trading triangle and I was amazed because I had never heard of that and never associated slavery with Great Britain. My viewpoint has been changing and I think this slim and irreverent volume may teach me a great deal about the reality. My politically aware son was reading this near the start of our smart lockdown. Now, whenever we have a political discussion that touches on the distribution of wealth, racism and colonialism, he urges me to read this book. And this was even before the George Floyd murder and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrations in times of Covid-19 and the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. They dredged him out of the river, by the way. They intend to put him somewhere else, probably in a museum. However, the spray paint and graffiti applied by the BLM demonstrators will be left in place to reflect modern opinion and the history of Bristol. I think that’s a good compromise and can be used as a good launching point for teaching about historical attitudes to slavery and colonialism, rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Darren

    Ever think the history you were taught in school was a little bit..., clean? Suspiciously made us out to be paragons of virtue? Think that maybe, just maybe, there may be more to it than that? Then this is the (quite short) book for you. Rarely taking more than 3 pages per incident of bellendery, Felton takes us through, funnily enough, 52 times Britain was so moustache twirlingly twatty that you have to think what the hell were people thinking. Personal highlights from the book, nearly going to wa Ever think the history you were taught in school was a little bit..., clean? Suspiciously made us out to be paragons of virtue? Think that maybe, just maybe, there may be more to it than that? Then this is the (quite short) book for you. Rarely taking more than 3 pages per incident of bellendery, Felton takes us through, funnily enough, 52 times Britain was so moustache twirlingly twatty that you have to think what the hell were people thinking. Personal highlights from the book, nearly going to war with America over a pig, getting an elephant regularly blind drunk on wine, cleaning chimneys with a goose and paying slave owners 40% of the nation's yearly budget in compensation for losing their slaves, taking out a loan to do so, one which we only finished paying off in 2015.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Short but powerful. Witty and depressing. A fascinating insight into the lesser known parts of British history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Artiss

    I loved the book... but it was very short, with more room devoted to simple illustrations than the actual text. And the text was often just a portion of one page. Never-the-less, James has a great way with words and what he shares is both educational, embarrassing and infuriating!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Fox

    This book is definitely something of a mixed bag. For anyone with a good knowledge of history, you won't learn anything new in here. For those who would like a deeper and more nuanced look at these events, you'll also be disappointed. 52 occasions are recounted, but with 2 pages dedicated to each, of which one page is a cartoon and the other a large font well spaced couple of paragraphs, you won't actually learn much more than the basics. Nuance is a definite casualty within this book. These even This book is definitely something of a mixed bag. For anyone with a good knowledge of history, you won't learn anything new in here. For those who would like a deeper and more nuanced look at these events, you'll also be disappointed. 52 occasions are recounted, but with 2 pages dedicated to each, of which one page is a cartoon and the other a large font well spaced couple of paragraphs, you won't actually learn much more than the basics. Nuance is a definite casualty within this book. These events can't exactly be excused, but giving the rationale behind the actions would be helpful, as Felton's prose makes it look as if Britain was being capricious at best, or malevolent for the sake of it, at worst. If he had actually gone into things in any depth then it would be easier to learn from his work. Felton aims for humour, but doesn't achieve it. These events are hard to make funny and his attempts fall very short of that. The swearing doesn't add anything to what he is saying. Instead, it makes him look as if he's trying too hard to be funny. Almost like an inexperienced comedian who knows they are losing the room and so starts to add swears to their set in order to get people back. This is a good gift for those acquaintances who aren't particularly clued up on British history, but don't half love to bang on about how great Britain is.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abby O'Reilly

    this book was an amusing and informative read and did a good job of introducing hidden parts of british history to a wider audience for the most part. however, it felt a bit odd to be discussing such wildly horrific events in such a trivial and flippant way in some places, and there definitely wasn’t enough information in most of the chapters (most were 2 pages long, if that) to really inform anyone properly. that being said, it’s a good jumping off point to do your own googling, and is a really this book was an amusing and informative read and did a good job of introducing hidden parts of british history to a wider audience for the most part. however, it felt a bit odd to be discussing such wildly horrific events in such a trivial and flippant way in some places, and there definitely wasn’t enough information in most of the chapters (most were 2 pages long, if that) to really inform anyone properly. that being said, it’s a good jumping off point to do your own googling, and is a really accessible way of bringing light to serious issues which are rarely spoken about in britain and would probably recommend for that alone!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    While told in quite an amusing manner, the litany of actions, ranging from full on atrocaities to blatent stupidity, most of which spurred by a selfish, petty, greedy, entitled behaviour is sobering. We have gone round the world like a spoiled brat, taking and smashing other people's things in petulant ridiculous rages. That we also destroyed the evidence of our own actions during the handing back of various territories, shows we knew it was wrong and did everything to not be held to account for o While told in quite an amusing manner, the litany of actions, ranging from full on atrocaities to blatent stupidity, most of which spurred by a selfish, petty, greedy, entitled behaviour is sobering. We have gone round the world like a spoiled brat, taking and smashing other people's things in petulant ridiculous rages. That we also destroyed the evidence of our own actions during the handing back of various territories, shows we knew it was wrong and did everything to not be held to account for our actions. This is only a short list of "highlights" shall we say. The delusion of "British Greatness" that we tell ourselves is the cause of our own current crises and won't be fixed until as a society and a culture, we stop lying to ourselves. We've been lying for a long time though. I completely see how the current Government are perfect examples of the bumbling, ignorant, selfish public school boys that happily stole from everyone. They are now stealing from us. Lets try learning something before we destroy ourselves.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Deeps

    I’m already a bit of a history nerd, so I didn’t need this book to magically make me fall in love with the subject. However, if you’re not in the same boat as me (or indeed, even if you are) please see the following reasons for why I think this book is a must read; 1. It presents history concisely and humorously. History is often seen as dry and presented in these tomes wider than your hand. Each of the 52 items are presented in a few paragraphs. The tone is lighthearted and it’s entertaining. Pe I’m already a bit of a history nerd, so I didn’t need this book to magically make me fall in love with the subject. However, if you’re not in the same boat as me (or indeed, even if you are) please see the following reasons for why I think this book is a must read; 1. It presents history concisely and humorously. History is often seen as dry and presented in these tomes wider than your hand. Each of the 52 items are presented in a few paragraphs. The tone is lighthearted and it’s entertaining. Perhaps it detracts from the seriousness of the issues ever so slightly, but I heartily enjoyed it nonetheless. 2. From a British POV - a lot of this history was skimmed over, or not even taught in school (cough, COLONIALISM, cough). I actually ended up studying Russian and German history in more depth in my later years of education - while this was definitely interesting, I would have preferred to know more about the country in which I reside. This is a good introduction to that, and I look forward to finding out more, however negative or positive it is. 3. The illustrations are a nice touch.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    Ending the year on 5 stars - So happy with this Christmas present! Perfect combination of historical fact and wit - a really great insight into history that isn't typically explored in the classroom. Loved the artwork as well as the narrative - felt like i was reading an adult Horrible Histories! Ending the year on 5 stars - So happy with this Christmas present! Perfect combination of historical fact and wit - a really great insight into history that isn't typically explored in the classroom. Loved the artwork as well as the narrative - felt like i was reading an adult Horrible Histories!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    Initially both amusing and shocking, this slim volume received as a Christmas present was entertaining and absorbing. It didn't really dip in quality in any real sense, but in truth it settled in to a slightly limited 'coffee table' or 'toilet book' niche, and the impact of reading about mainly pre 1950s British colonial atrocities lessened. Which was slightly troubling for me in the end, as a reader. It shouldn't really be the case - how poorly we British treated our own, our colonial subjects, Initially both amusing and shocking, this slim volume received as a Christmas present was entertaining and absorbing. It didn't really dip in quality in any real sense, but in truth it settled in to a slightly limited 'coffee table' or 'toilet book' niche, and the impact of reading about mainly pre 1950s British colonial atrocities lessened. Which was slightly troubling for me in the end, as a reader. It shouldn't really be the case - how poorly we British treated our own, our colonial subjects, our neighbours and rivals shouldn't feel lessened by repetition or by a humorous/satirical treatment.. but by virtue of the remit of the book it was at risk of doing so. I therefore feel harsh to criticise what is a well-written and well-meaning book which will be the stimulus for further and more in-depth reading on my part. Recommended with caveats.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Xanthi

    I expected to already be familiar with most of the content, given the fact that I read up a lot on world history, in general, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole lot that was new to me. ‘Pleasantly’ might be the wrong word to use though, as the author lays out some pretty grim stuff. Having said that, the book is also very funny and the audiobook narrator delivers it with perfect timing and style. So, yes... this book is both grim (content) and funny (delivery of content) without the I expected to already be familiar with most of the content, given the fact that I read up a lot on world history, in general, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole lot that was new to me. ‘Pleasantly’ might be the wrong word to use though, as the author lays out some pretty grim stuff. Having said that, the book is also very funny and the audiobook narrator delivers it with perfect timing and style. So, yes... this book is both grim (content) and funny (delivery of content) without the latter diminishing the former. If swearing offends you, be warned because there’s a lot in this book. And then consider the fact you should be more offended by what humans have done to each other over the years (and even worse - cherry picking what they wish to remember and promote), than a bit of strong language. My only criticism of this book was that it wasn’t long enough for me. I definitely wanted to hear more.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Johnson

    A really good read about the history of Britain / British Empire. This book doesn't go into much detail and is entirely focussed around a light-hearted take the piss out of the things we did, but it is written by a comedian. It's actually why I enjoyed it so much, James portrays the crimes exactly as they were but in small bite-sized chunks which were ideal for readers like me who have a short attention span, get easily distracted and read once in a blue moon. A really good read about the history of Britain / British Empire. This book doesn't go into much detail and is entirely focussed around a light-hearted take the piss out of the things we did, but it is written by a comedian. It's actually why I enjoyed it so much, James portrays the crimes exactly as they were but in small bite-sized chunks which were ideal for readers like me who have a short attention span, get easily distracted and read once in a blue moon.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    This book may be short, but it very effectively highlights just some of the many (many, many) times throughout history when Britain and the British were, indeed, complete and utter fecking bellends. It's told with pointed dark humour, and Mathew Baynton (of Horrible Histories, etc) is the perfect narrator for the tone of the book. I thought it was pretty accessible as a history book - quite the opposite of dry and dull. The only caveat is that there's a LOT of swearing, so if you're not into that This book may be short, but it very effectively highlights just some of the many (many, many) times throughout history when Britain and the British were, indeed, complete and utter fecking bellends. It's told with pointed dark humour, and Mathew Baynton (of Horrible Histories, etc) is the perfect narrator for the tone of the book. I thought it was pretty accessible as a history book - quite the opposite of dry and dull. The only caveat is that there's a LOT of swearing, so if you're not into that, and the title didn't already give you a clue, best steer clear. Not one for the younger kids either, of course, despite the Horrible Histories link!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luke Rogers

    It's an entertaining read and no doubt has opened my eyes to some moments in history the United Kingdom would like to forget. My only criticism is that I find each passage is too short and could do with some more detail to provide better context. However I did find myself researching and carrying out further reading into nearly every passage; proving that the book is good at grasping your interest and introducing you to historic events you'd otherwise never come across. It's an entertaining read and no doubt has opened my eyes to some moments in history the United Kingdom would like to forget. My only criticism is that I find each passage is too short and could do with some more detail to provide better context. However I did find myself researching and carrying out further reading into nearly every passage; proving that the book is good at grasping your interest and introducing you to historic events you'd otherwise never come across.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Everett

    Educational and Important but written in a way that is fun and accessible The kind of book I want to have endless copies of so I can just throw it at people who come out with that classic weird shite about “the good old days when Britain ruled”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alina Cristina

    Hilarious! Also pretty informative, lots of stuff to go look up in more depth afterwards.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Williams

    Sorry real historians but I now think all history should be taught to us by comedians. I found this so funny, interesting and shocking (animal bits) and quite frankly I want more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Niamh

    Brilliant, if not slightly depressing because the British really were a bunch of assholes. It was a little too short, in my opinion, but I think it would make an excellent podcast. Definitely one that I'd quickly subscribe to. Brilliant, if not slightly depressing because the British really were a bunch of assholes. It was a little too short, in my opinion, but I think it would make an excellent podcast. Definitely one that I'd quickly subscribe to.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Wright

    Superficial, but very light reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Phil Lewis

    Can't help thinking that there should be far more than 52, this is definitely worth a volume 2. A very funny book, until you remember we really did all those things, Can't help thinking that there should be far more than 52, this is definitely worth a volume 2. A very funny book, until you remember we really did all those things,

  21. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Funny and pretty informative. The title is a good summary of what the book covers. It ranges from fairly minor injustices in British culture (like abusing the first guy to use an umbrella) to outright atrocities (perpetuating the Irish famine, concentration camps in South Africa, Cyprus & Kenya, millions of deaths in the partition of India & Pakistan, compensating slave owners rather than emancipated slaves after abolition, and so on and so on and so on). A damning account of our national history, Funny and pretty informative. The title is a good summary of what the book covers. It ranges from fairly minor injustices in British culture (like abusing the first guy to use an umbrella) to outright atrocities (perpetuating the Irish famine, concentration camps in South Africa, Cyprus & Kenya, millions of deaths in the partition of India & Pakistan, compensating slave owners rather than emancipated slaves after abolition, and so on and so on and so on). A damning account of our national history, made more manageable by the brief explanations and summarised storytelling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Knight

    This book is headlined as “things you didn’t learn at school” and that’s the first problem with it, as much of the content I did. Of the 52 subject matters, I would suggest a reasonably well educated Brit will know about 45 of them. Most of us know we abused other nations. Most of us know we concocted wicked ways to torture. Most of us know we did ridiculously stupid things, like hanging a monkey. Tell us something we didn’t know. Hey, and guess what, the majority of other nations were pretty na This book is headlined as “things you didn’t learn at school” and that’s the first problem with it, as much of the content I did. Of the 52 subject matters, I would suggest a reasonably well educated Brit will know about 45 of them. Most of us know we abused other nations. Most of us know we concocted wicked ways to torture. Most of us know we did ridiculously stupid things, like hanging a monkey. Tell us something we didn’t know. Hey, and guess what, the majority of other nations were pretty nasty historically too! I really struggle with the point of this book, other than to make a cheap political statement. It’s a book that hates Britain and throws scorn on today’s nation for deeds of the past. There is just no need.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen Kozlowski

    An educational and hilarious book Jim has a way of taking harrowing and bleak topics and putting a twist on it that you can't help but crack up at. Jim is a fantastic writer and his wit is absolutely outstanding in this book. I have bought three copies, one to send home to America, and will be buying more for Christmas gifts and secret santa. Honestly one of the best books I have read this year, I had to stop reading it on the train because people were starting to stare and tut in typical British An educational and hilarious book Jim has a way of taking harrowing and bleak topics and putting a twist on it that you can't help but crack up at. Jim is a fantastic writer and his wit is absolutely outstanding in this book. I have bought three copies, one to send home to America, and will be buying more for Christmas gifts and secret santa. Honestly one of the best books I have read this year, I had to stop reading it on the train because people were starting to stare and tut in typical British fashion at me. Buy this book, if you have a sense of humor I promise you won't regret it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margaret McCulloch-Keeble

    I know we're meant to find this book full of such shocking revelations that you just have to laugh, but I actually found it quite grim and uncomfortable. It is a very excellent book, important even. I'm smug enough to say I was aware already of many of the episodes listed but not all. This only adds to my sadness 'cos now I have to admit to smugness as well. I'm probably not going to help my case here by saying I'm not a great believer in visiting the sins of the ancestors on the children-howeve I know we're meant to find this book full of such shocking revelations that you just have to laugh, but I actually found it quite grim and uncomfortable. It is a very excellent book, important even. I'm smug enough to say I was aware already of many of the episodes listed but not all. This only adds to my sadness 'cos now I have to admit to smugness as well. I'm probably not going to help my case here by saying I'm not a great believer in visiting the sins of the ancestors on the children-however I do believe we must acknowledge those sins and this book helps to do that.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aileen

    This was a great read! As someone who lives in a country that was colonised and destroyed by the British I’ve always wondered why they’re lacking in knowledge of their own history. I’ve also heard a lot of “get over it!!” When they’re confronted with the knowledge that they’ve basically been massive c*nts throughout history and today (their football fans, anyone?) I would definitely recommend this read! I would love a follow up, because let’s be honest, it was a short book considering all the at This was a great read! As someone who lives in a country that was colonised and destroyed by the British I’ve always wondered why they’re lacking in knowledge of their own history. I’ve also heard a lot of “get over it!!” When they’re confronted with the knowledge that they’ve basically been massive c*nts throughout history and today (their football fans, anyone?) I would definitely recommend this read! I would love a follow up, because let’s be honest, it was a short book considering all the atrocities they dished out over hundreds of years.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emma Dargue

    Funny irreverent book that looks at times in history when Britain did not so great things such as massacres, torture, slavery and capital punishment. James Felton deals with these terrible way so as not to make light of them but to acknowledge they happened and to try to explain why we did the things we did - mainly in the cause of colonialism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Codfather

    This is a very light hearted look at the history of Britain, but with a serious undertone and message. I would recommend to every UK citizen, to start the journey to understand that the UK has a vast amount of things to be proud of and most definitely quite a few things to be horrified about.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Gallacher

    Very entertaining Was well written and kept all the tunes we were bellends to a readable chunk. I think this could be the first of several volumes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    D.K. Powell

    James Felton is, on the strength of this book, my new personal god. There is literally nothing to fault bar the fact he uses copious amounts of 'F' words and insults. But then, with the title featuring the words 'bellend' in it you'd have to be pretty bloody stupid to be offended by this if you'd gone further than look at the cover and move on. The level of language was going to be fairly obvious really so you only have yourself to blame. The book is incredibly simple to read (not an easy feat fo James Felton is, on the strength of this book, my new personal god. There is literally nothing to fault bar the fact he uses copious amounts of 'F' words and insults. But then, with the title featuring the words 'bellend' in it you'd have to be pretty bloody stupid to be offended by this if you'd gone further than look at the cover and move on. The level of language was going to be fairly obvious really so you only have yourself to blame. The book is incredibly simple to read (not an easy feat for what is, essentially, a history book). On the right is one page of text covering one of the '52' moments in history, covering from modern times right back to at least the 13th century; on the right is a funny cartoon ridiculing the act of stupidity in some way. You could easily dismiss the book from this style, thinking it to be simplistic, sensationalist tripe from some guy with a grudge against the British. But you be wrong if you thought so. I teach history and, in particular, studied Indian subcontinent history in-depth for my second masters. If you know your history then you'll not be surprised that many of the 'bellend' moments take place in this part of the world and in Asia more generally. The Amritsar massacre and forcing the Chinese to buy our opium are just two that spring readily to mind. I can tell you then, that Felton gets his details right. He uses great humour and doesn't shy away from expressing exactly what he thinks of the British in each case, but the details are not exaggerated in the slightest. Felton has done his homework and researched as well as any academic historian. And yet, the events he describes seem utterly unbelievable - even for myself at times. Discovering that my memory of modern history in Egypt is shakier than I thought, I read the passage on 'We tried to hold a river hostage' and thought "No. No way. That just can't be true." So off I went to research it. Sure enough, every word was right. It was the 'Suez crisis' and I realised I did actually know this. Only, when dealing with lots and lots of history around the world (as I do), it is so easy to sanitise an event when it is glossed over in a few lines of a text book. Felton's presentation simply changed the perspective to make you look again more clearly. This respect Felton reminds me of my favourite historian, Peter Frankopan, whose 'Silk Roads' book is, by far, the best global history I've ever read and one I recommend to all my history students. Both writers have a way of making you look at history in a fresh and alarmingly clear way. While one is writing an academic, but accessible, tome, the other is writing to entertain while making it clear that he thinks the British can be absolute knobs. And James Felton is right in this respect. I bought the book because I already knew my own nation is exactly how he describes. The events I didn't know (or didn't know I did know) have merely given me even more ammunition to fire at the plonkers I meet from all walks of life who think the Brits are the best nation ever and the rest of the world owes us a favour. For that, I will always be grateful to the author. There's more than enough here to put anyone in their place. I take back, slightly, my opening point that this book is just about perfect. In trying to find references while writing this review, I suddenly realised it is annoying that there is no contents list. I know the primary aim is entertainment - a bit of fun at the expense of the British - but Mr Felton has not really appreciated just how useful a reference book this is. It is certainly one I'll dip into regularly. A contents page would really help with finding stuff. Not sure I can recommend the book to students though(there's rather a lot of cartoon drawings of penises for one thing); I might, however, slyly suggest-not-suggest it to my A level ones. Perhaps I can gift copies to them when they finish exams and my legal obligations to them are over? Whatever, for the rest of the world - and to anyone who's fed up of all the nationalistic nonsense heard in our pubs, clubs and social media - this book is a must.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Luke Brennan

    It's clear that every country prefers to dwell on only the good things in its history, but it is fair to say that the particular English nationalism that is presently in control of the UK state, is truly exceptional in its desire to ignore so much of reality. It fixates on unrepresentative aspects in both its own history and that of its neighbours, while throwing in bits of conspiracy theorising about bendy bananas and the like to boot. This nationalism, in its very crudest versions, reduces his It's clear that every country prefers to dwell on only the good things in its history, but it is fair to say that the particular English nationalism that is presently in control of the UK state, is truly exceptional in its desire to ignore so much of reality. It fixates on unrepresentative aspects in both its own history and that of its neighbours, while throwing in bits of conspiracy theorising about bendy bananas and the like to boot. This nationalism, in its very crudest versions, reduces history to the World War II years only, where England did indeed shine so well, but where by contrast, the continentals get all cast as either goose-stepping Nazis, or feeble cowards who surrendered because of a lack of grit. There are, however other years that have existed besides 1939 to 1945, and so a slightly more sophisticated version of this nationalism, will indeed have a better historical range, but yet will still have the same self-evasive cowardice when it comes to the many negative aspects that occurred in the course of English history. This simple history would be something like the diffusion to the world of the rule of law, liberal democracy, and international trade, as a perhaps unwarranted gift to all other nations. While these elements are good things, and England/Britain did have a lot of agency in their creation and dissemination, and this should be acknowledged, it would yet be untruthful to say that the whole history of this polity can be expressed in these terms. For obviously, there are many things in its history that contradict these principles, such as the lawless invasions and misappropriations of so many countries, a racial democracy for Anglo-Saxons for the majority of its history, and economic colonialism which, whether by mercantilism or unfair trade, reduced its imperial provinces and many non-European countries to merely raw materials suppliers. There are many other examples, of both positive and negative elements, which could be mentioned, but the cherry-picking issue regarding history has been sufficiently identified. In addition, this nationalism is committed to views about wider reality which are not empirically attested, most particularly about Europe. In this, the British press has not always been noted for the quality of its reporting and analysis, witnessed by its invention of the literary genre of 'imaginary regulations absurdism', with such items as the permitted curvature of bananas, and countless other canards. The general import is that the EU inevitably has a bizarre fetish for mindless bureaucracy and pointless regulations, largely because of its misbegotten character, as it is imagined, as a supranational organisation, the nature of which contradicts the supposed natural of order of things, this being totally free-standing and wholly sovereign nation-states. The idea, it seems, is that Britain, by essence, is the nation-state which most truly inhabits the Westphalian nation-state ideal and its ‘dynamic’ possibilities, and so it is the one that loses most by sharing sovereignty with other states. For those other European countries are shown to have an inferior national character by virtue of their willingness to continue with the EU project, and so to deny their independence, and therefore, as it is imagined, own true nature. By this stance, then, Britain as member of the EU, was metaphysically constrained and reduced, where now outside and unbound, it can surge forward to the future that a blind faith in ideology provides. Of course, the more empirically grounded view of things would be concerned with such facts as how around 50% of both its imports and exports comes from and goes to EU countries, and of how international trade generally is and will be conducted in terms of the standards and dynamics set by the three largest trade blocks that the UK won’t be part of (USA, the EU and China), and of how, therefore the UK as a relatively small country, will be dancing to the tune set by others for a long time to come. As such, it is clearly not worth much to have merely theoretical sovereignty in the sense of unenforceable rights, such as the UK has acquired for itself by Brexit. What obviously counts, rather, is the actual ability of a state to influence the world around it such that its interests are safeguarded, and if this is more effectively achieved by membership in a supranational union, then the purpose of sovereignty is clearly attained, even though the formal description of such a state would, to the clueless observer, suggest that its freedom is reduced. The prior history of Ireland is a case in point, in that the first few decades of independence, while having full formal political and economic sovereignty, consisted of decline and near collapse. For having formal independence and self-determination unfortunately did not take account of, and could not counteract, the economic and political realities which took no notice of the new constitutional order. Ireland did of course try to attain actual economic independence, by protectionism and autarky, but unfortunately this didn’t work. This was combined, it is fair to say, with an angular and obsessive nationalism which refused to acknowledge the existence of the Unionist people in northern Ireland as having some say over their future, and in general, of a refusal to allow Irishness be defined in a broader and more encompassing manner. In these ways, the history of Ireland for many decades after independence was in some ways an unhappy one. And so long as the EU didn’t exist, as an economic and political organisation in which we could for the first time participate as equals, the future for Ireland would not have been likely great. There are of course some parallels with Brexit Britain here, for the UK is gaining the window dressing of independence, but not alas enough of its substance. It will feel ideologically pure about itself, but unfortunately, any serious analysis shows that all it will actually gain is immense economic pain. This is, again, because it concentrates inordinately on the mere idea of sovereignty, but completely neglects the actual operation of it. And Brexit Britain refuses to attenuate itself in any way, even though its inflamed trajectory makes it more probable than not that the UK will break up. In these ways, this overwrought version of English nationalism, by its evasive reading of history, conspiracy theorising, and fanaticism, is the perverse force that will likely cause what will be the former countries of the UK to rejoin the EU, separately, at some not too distant date.

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