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Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic [Paperback]

Jonathan Freedland
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 April 1999

On a switchback ride through the USA, riding pillion with America’s founding fathers, Jonathan Freedland searches out the qualities that made America the land at the end of his childhood rainbow, the place his grandfather and he conspired to run off to because of its open promise and unbounded potential.

Noisy, crass, greedy, riddled with crime, riven by race, obsessed by money: America, exporter of junk to the UK. Or is it?

From Lesbianville in New Hampshire to Tent City in Arizona, from the high kitsch celebration of Liberace to the Bible Belt austerity of Iowa, from the paranoid militia of rural Montana to Florida’s Condo Canyon, this is a journey to the heart of modern America – to Normal, Illinois.

On his travels Freedland reveals how Americans control of their own lives, shape their own communities and vibrantly assert their rights. And there’s even a twist: the spirit that inspires the American secret is actually our own – a British revolutionary fervour mislaid across the Atlantic.

This what has made America the diverse, freedom-loving, self-sufficient, independent icon to the world: the place where socialism never took hold because it is inherent in the founding vision, where capitalism at the same time has reached its apogee; where many cultures contribute to the national fabric and yet the sense of belonging to the nation and reverence for its symbols is unmatched across the globe. It’s time Britain shared the vitality: time to reclaim the revolution and bring it home.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (15 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841150215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841150215
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 549,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


• ‘The book of the year’ Will Hutton

• ‘Splendid … a serious political work, which borders on being a revolutionary’s manifesto.’ Time

• ‘Both Blair and Hague would do well to read it’ George Walden

• ‘As an example of its genre, Bring Home the Revolution is perfect’ Evening Standard

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Britain imports American culture by the crate load. We watch their TV, eat their burgers and copy their language. Our kids wear their trainers, our companies mimic their style. With Nikes on our feet and downsizing in our industries, the US influence is everywhere. But are we getting the best of America?

After criss-crossing the United States, Jonathan Freedland thinks not. From the women of Lesbianville to the hardmen of rural Montana, he discovers that it is America's political culture we should steal. More democratic, more egalitarian and more radical than our own, it is richer than we ever realised.

Drawing on its music, movies and mores – as well as the politics – Freedland journeys to the heart of modern America. He searches beyond the tired clichés of a nation riven by race, riddled with crime and obsessed with money, revealing that many of the dreams of today's British reformers have already been made real – in the United States.

But there's a twist. The American ideal is actually our own. Contrary to the old wisdom, Britain did have a revolution. The trouble is, we had it in America. The Founding Fathers were British pioneers who exported our revolution – and with it our rightful destiny. Now is the time to bring it back home.

In a vivid, colourful and highly readable book, Jonathan Freedland shatters the old stereotypes of America, throws fresh light on Britain and offers a new brand of political culture – one for radicals of every stripe.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Jonathan Freedland is a gifted writer able to present an argument that flows gently across the pages of his book whilst remaining all thw while persuasive. Each chapter shows the workings of democracy in the United States and how our own country is sadly deficient when it comes to true democratic practice.

Even if you are a dyed in the wool monarchist, you should read this book, if for no other reason than it is a fascinating exploration of how notions of community and patriotism have remained an everpresent aspect of American life and why our country lacks both. It is also brings to light the true nature of some of Britain's best 'institutions', exposing how much of our Anti-americanism is rooted in snobbery and regret.

It also brings to light just how little this country has acted as a positive force for change, showing how even venerated figures like the economist John Maynard Keynes were prone to fascist sentiment when it came to those less fortunate than himself. If our country can not only tolerate such figures but retain a cadre of people who worship at their altar, then we need people like mr Freedland to provide us with some hope for the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This badly written, unfocussed, too-long book doesn't know if it wants to be scholarly and serious, or jokey and populist.

It's based on an uncontrovertible fact: that there is something profoundly wrong with British society and that to fix it, radical political change is necessary; Britain must become a republic.

So far, so obvious. But why should the republican model be that of the United States when there are so many other forms of republican government to choose from? Freedland is only interested in taking America as a paradigm and doesn't consider any other possibilities. That's the weakness of this book.

His entire proposition, as he goes into detail about it, demonstrates inadvertently how unfeasible it would be to take Tom Paine's eighteenth-century ideas as they evolved on the other side of the Atlantic, in ways Paine could certainly never have anticipated, and re-import them back to Britain. It becomes immediately obvious that this would not work. And yet this is Freedland's Big Idea.

The rest of his argument consists of a ping-pong across the Atlantic, in the course of which he compares and contrasts, at tedious length and with not much of a writing style, the pros and cons of American society vis-à-vis British society. Ho-hum. Neither comes out tops.

The one key thing about turning Britain into a republic (hopefully with a new name) is of course "What to do about the monarchy?". Freedland has no suggestions. He does say they wouldn't be needed any more, but he doesn't propose what should be done with them. He gets cold feet.

To be more charitable to this book than it deserves, it's a pamphlet setting out the thin ideas of someone who isn't really serious about what he's saying. He doesn't mean business.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A political dream of what could have been. 7 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Freedland's book is a provocative and aspiring view of what the political system within Great Britain could have been. This book is a must read for anyone who lived through the Thatcher government and beyond, only to have seen it replaced by an all to insipid Labour party which appears to have assumed all of their guises.
Freedland's main argument is that whilst the two Goverments in USA and Great Britain face the same challenges and issues, it is the way that they reach a conclusion that is fundamentaly different and one which has repercussions on society as a whole.
The aim of the book is twofold. Firstly it strikes home that in Great Britain, we are essentially living in an elected dictatorship, with a show of power by the people once every four or five years when the present Government dissolves and a general election is called. Power is devolved from the top down, with the general electorate left with practically no influence over policy and a benign Goverment deciding what is or isn't in our interest. Whether the ruling party is Labour or Tory makes no difference. the mechanics of Government turn in the sme way.
Secondly, Freedland suggests ways in which the American model could be transposed and work within the existing framework. the emphasis is on devolved power to a local level, dealing with issues or concerns at a grass roots level, more in tune and in touch within the community it affects, whilst still retaining an overall central system to manage affairs of national importance. In this way, local authorities would not be unduly restrained by London and would be able to respond to individual requirements.
This book provides a hope for the dissillusioned, for those who have lost faith in all politicians. It should be given to all members of the house of commons, if only to remind them that they are elected to serve their constituencies.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
What an eye-opener! This really does challenge the "British Club". If you ever wanted to understand why the majority of the British are apathetic towards government, this book will help you. It doesn't present America as a panacea either. There is much to criticise in America, and much to praise. There is not very much to praise about the political system in Britain, once you understand upon what it is built.
Next time a politician turns up on your doorstep to canvass for your vote, give him this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be made compulsory school reading
Any book that calls for Liz Windsor to be removed from the throne deserves to be compulsory reading for all UK school children. Read more
Published on 25 July 2007 by Doctor Syn
4.0 out of 5 stars Changing Times
I read this book several years ago and remember being inspired by its premise. I recommend it for anyone interested in the concepts of freedom and democracy as it is fascinating in... Read more
Published on 13 May 2007 by Mr. C. Bentley
2.0 out of 5 stars This is opinion, not argument.
Having read all the reviews, I opened this book ready to be coverted to the American way.
Well, I now have a better understanding of why Americans live and think the way they... Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2002 by Martin Akiyama
5.0 out of 5 stars And I thought we lived in a democracy...
A supherb analysis of how we ought to be. America has it's faults, that's true, but it certainly makes one look at our distorted 'democracy' in a totally different way - you can... Read more
Published on 12 April 2001 by
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read it!
Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. I found that I agreed with almost all of the contents, and have since bored my friends to death debating the contents and... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2000 by N. L. Gill
5.0 out of 5 stars Sneering Brits are the baddies again
Months after my first reading of this book, I still find it utterly convincing and yet profoundly depressing because -- realistically -- what is the chance of a grass-roots... Read more
Published on 22 July 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent discourse on democracy and how Britain falls short
This book should be required reading for all those snide, sneering, snobbish and class-embracing brits who find it hip and de riguere to slag off the yanks <HELLOOOOOO JEREMY... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2000 by "112012614"
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear conscise and extremely readable
Freedland sets out in his book that the U.S was created by English radicals and can only be understood in the context of Engilsh radicalism, from Tom Paine to Chartism. Read more
Published on 13 Jun 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligently argued, view of Britain's political process
As an American who has always loved Britain, I learned a lot from this book. While it's true that from a very early age, Americans learn that the Revolution was fought against the... Read more
Published on 21 April 2000 by D. Hernandez
I bought this book in Waterloo Station on the spur of the moment. After reading it, I thought that it was ironic that I bought it there. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 1999
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