You only have to pick up any paper on any day in this country to find some kind of polemic against immigration. Whther it's bogus asylum seekers, official government figures, racial tensions, bureaucratic screw-ups, deportations, there's always bound to be someone, somewhere complaining about immigration to this country.
So reading this book was like a breath of fresh air. Winder traces the roots of immigration to these isles all the way from prehistory onwards, making the point that at some level we are all immigrants; we all bear strains of DNA from Celts, Romans, Picts, Scots, Vikings, Danes, Normans, French, Germans, West Indians, Indians, Chinese, Africans. Institutions we think of as quintessentially British are the brainchildren of immigrants: Rothschilds, Harrods, Marks & Spencers, Tesco, the list goes on.
Winder argues that immigration itself is a self-selecting process: only those with the most education, the most drive and ambition, the most determination and perseverance, are likely to overcome to immense obstacles standing in the way of successfully reaching and settling in Britain. And these kind of people are likely to be an asset to any country, not just this one. Statistics prove that the level of education, the level of professional qualifications held are higher amongst immigrants than they are in the rest of the general population - and yet time after time we see immigrants and asylum-seekers dismissed as lazy, criminal, uneducated. And this is quite apart from the fact that immigrants make up only 4% of the general population - hardly the flood we hear about.
This book isn't all a rant against the anti-immigration brigade. Time and again Winder discusses the seemingly-typical British response to immigration - we will moan and complain and put every obstacle in the path of potential immigrants, but we will let them in anyway. There will be prejudice and racial tension and strife, but there are no pogroms, no massacres, very little violence. We are the most begrudging of friends to the immigrant, Winder argues, but even that is sometimes more than enough.
And in the end, what a compliment, surely? That people from all over the world want to come here, want to come and benefit from our freedoms, our liberty, our openness, our liberalism, our opportunities and culture and education. Those of us who were born here didn't choose our country, our nationality, but isn't it surely a compliment that people choose to be British of all the countries in the world?