Posted by: anglopole | August 10, 2008

‘The English – A Portrait of A People’

Sometimes the feedback I get about what I write here is that my entries are subjective. Well, it must be so, as the blog is, after all, an internet form of a diary. Nevertheless, I find it useful to resort to all kinds of reference resources to back my opinions or, by contrast, show that my view is somewhat new, original or…. uncommon.

I do think that people born and brought up in a country and then thrown onto the lap of a different state can bring some fresh outlook on the state of matters in their new homeland. It is good to juxtapose the opinions of foreigners with those of the natives. This is exactly what I want to be doing every now and then in this blog.

Not long ago I read an excellent book by Jeremy Paxman ‘The English – A Portrait of a People’. The author is an Englishman and a known one too. He is one of the most known journalists working for BBC and is mainly associated with Newsnight, a programme shown in the late evenings, everyday. He has interviewed a large number of people from various professions and walks of life. Without a shadow of a doubt, he did have every right to put into writing the conclusions he drew about his own nation after years observing it, alongside being English himself.

 Here’s a quote that pretty much shows the atmosphere Paxman managed to create in the publication:

 “There is a legendary English newspaper headline which tells everything you need to know about the century’s relations with the rest of Europe.


 How unfortunate for continental Europeans to be so at the mercy of the weather. […]

 In this understanding of England, its first privilege is to be isolated from the rest of Europe.”

The statement is self-explanatory and does tell you that the author did take an objective look at his own people. I like the book not just for the author’s sarcasm, irony and wit directed at the English, a nation priding itself on the unique, dry humour, but also the factual approach to the whole issue of Englishness. He took English history, geography, culture, relations with the other countries in the British Isles and the continental Europe into consideration and dipicted the reality in the old Blighty rather accurately. When I read the book I couldn’t help myself and just felt a sense of relief as much of what I found in it confirmed my own experience as an expat in England and someone who had always been interested in the Anglo-Saxon studies.

If you, dear readers, mistrust opinions of a foreigner, like myself, about life in England, do read Paxman’s ‘The English – A Portrait of A People‘ and you will understand why The Times reported the book as ‘stimulating, adventurous and witty’.



  1. Paxo is one of the few things I miss about England, the man is a national treasure.


  2. I couldn’t agree more, Island! 🙂


  3. I’m a total ignoramus, never heard of the guy. But as long as it’s funny I’ll consider reading it. If it’s not funny, then I guess I’ll have to wait for island1’s digest version 😉


  4. you will love it – it’s good for people who have a moral heartburn when dealing with the Brits! 😉


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