England: Seven Myths That Changed a Country and How to Set Them Straight

The stories we tell about our country matter at any time, but none more so than in an election year when various grandiose ideas about England will be pitted against a more everyday version that might just make for a better fit for the people who live here.

Our new book, England: Seven Myths That Changed a Country and How to Set Them Straight, sets out to puncture seven myths and bring them slowly back down to earth.

One of these talks of wresting back from the European Court to restore an English birthright of liberty, another harks back to when the Royal Navy ruled the waves. There is a myth revolving around an old-fashioned morality with which England supposedly civilised a savage world, as well as a story of an enchanted island that can stand alone against the world or even turn back global tides. Still more caricature both the least and most powerful in the land, then claim it’s not such grotesque masks that are the problem but the real people who have to wear them.

There is, however, a different and possibly more “English” approach to tackling the towering challenges facing us all today that bends into the folds of a muddled, dissonant and necessarily complicated country. It is based on the more mundane story of everyday lives that has been too often obscured by politics in recent years. 

Even though it is not a real country in the legal sense of the word, we argue there is a real England that combines mess and magic. It’s a place where people are free enough to take some sorts of freedom for granted, where we are learning that the sea is no longer about swash and buckle but for combating climate change through innovations in clean energy, somewhere football – which has sometimes reinforced division – can work with local people of different backgrounds to stitch us back together as a society. 

Most of all, it’s a country that in this coming election should be suspicious of vainglorious promises to solve everything all at once and might yet support a less grandiose set of ideas rooted in “ordinary hope” than can help fix something; an England that belongs to everyone or, at least, no one in particular.


England: Seven Myths That Changed a Country and How to Set Them Straight is published by Bloomsbury and is available at https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/england-9781526646231/

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