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This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World [Hardcover]

Harry Bingham
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 2007

Celebratory, witty and incredibly insightful, Harry Bingham explores the eccentricities and customs of the British nation in a bid to answer a question which has everyone debating – Who are we?

For the British, that's an oddly difficult question. Although our national self-assessment usually notes a number of good points (we're inventive, tolerant, and at least we're not French), it lists a torrent of bad ones too. Our society is fragmented and degenerate. Our kids are thugs, our workers ill-educated, our public services abysmal. We drink too much. Our house prices are crazy, our politicians sleazy, our roads jammed, our football team rubbish. When the 'Times' invited readers to suggest new designs for the backs of British coins, one reader wrote in saying, 'How about a couple of yobs dancing on a car bonnet or a trio of legless ladettes in the gutter?'

Is there really nothing to be proud of? British inventors have been responsible for myriad marvels we now take for granted, from the steam engine to the world wide web. British medical and public health innovations – vaccination, integrated mains sewerage, antiseptic surgery – have saved far more lives than all other medical innovations put together. And why stop there? The British empire covered a quarter of the earth's surface but used an army smaller than that of Switzerland to exert its rule. The world speaks our language. Our scientists have won vast numbers of Nobel Prizes. The evolution of habeas corpus, trial by jury and the abolition of torture aren't purely British in inspiration, but owe more to us than to anyone else. Our parliamentary democracy has been hugely influential in spreading ideals of liberty and representative government round the world.

If the modern world is richer, freer, more peaceful, more democratic and healthier than it was, then Britain has played a leading role in that transformation. This book is about just that. Taking a particular interest in the many things that we did first, or best, or most, or were the only ones ever to do, this focuses especially on those of our oddities that spread across the world – everything from football to the rule of law.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007258488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007258482
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 776,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harry is the author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, set in Cardiff and featuring a heroine described by the Sunday Times as 'The most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction ... brutal, freakish and totally original.' Harry - slightly less freakish than his creation - lives in Oxford with his wife and young family. He also runs The Writers' Workshop, an editorial consultancy for new writers. His books on Getting Published and How to Write are among the leading titles in their field.

Product Description

Review

'As Bingham shows so intelligently and so well, we have a lot to be proud of.' Mail on Sunday

‘Fascinating…the author conveys a huge amount of history and fact with the lightest of touches to make a most readable and enjoyable book.' Church Review

From the Back Cover

Celebratory, witty and incredibly insightful, Harry Bingham explores the eccentricities and customs of the British nation in a bid to answer a question which has everyone debating – Who are we? Taking a particular interest in the many things that we did first, or best, or most, or were the only ones ever to do, this focuses especially on those of our oddities that spread across the world – everything from football to the rule of law.

‘As Bingham shows so intelligently and so well, we have a lot to be proud of.' Mail on Sunday

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A realistic review 11 Nov 2007
By EMC
Format:Hardcover
I was unsure at first as to why this had been given one star by another reviewer but all was made clear when I realised they were a huge Little Britain fan (TV series) and were obviously put out that this book had nothing to do with it. I found it to be a great read and the title isn't confusing - the term 'little Britain' has been used in Britain itself for years before the TV show was created (and yes it's a great show, I agree)so it's not an attempt to 'cash in' . Buy this for itself and not because it sounds similar to something else.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Quirky Read 16 Nov 2007
Format:Hardcover
This Little Britain, Harry Bingham's book is brilliant and not just because his essays within each chapter are the prefect length for a bedtime read. It's described by the publisher (4th Estate) as "Celebratory, witty and incredibly insightful", for once the book lives up to the blurb. Yes but what's it about? Well, it's not about the TV series, which I'm probably one of the few people in Britain, under the age of 65, who doesn't find it funny. It "explores the eccentricities and customs of the British nation in a bid to answer a question - who we are." But much more than that it is a super history lesson on all sorts of cultural and historical backwaters as well as BIG topics including slavery for example. By exploring language, literature, law, war, science, economics, empire, and lifestyle Harry proves, at least to my satisfaction, why Britain is such an important nation.

There is none of rhetoric that Gordon Brown's fond of spouting on Britain, it is far too factual. And while Harry does poke fun at some of the things that we've done or been involved in as a nation he does it with a light touch and doesn't get involved in revisionist ranting. The underlying theme of the book is exceptionalism, that is to say how Britain is different from the rest of the world; not for the sake of being different- but just `cos we are.

I'm a great fan of quirky and `This Little Britain' delvers in spades, however, don't think for one minute that you won't learn a lot from a few nights in bed with Harry Bingham.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 26 Nov 2007
By Tommy
Format:Hardcover
This Little Britain is undoubtedly one of the best non-fiction books of the year, and definitely a good Christmas present for anyone at all interested in British culture. Much more than a novelty book, it is an intelligent work of non-fiction presented in refreshingly readable (and often humorous) bite-size chunks. The small sections make it a perfect companion in any situation where you need a moment's diversion. I found myself taking it everywhere: to bed, on the bus, and even in the bath! Having said that, it presents such a compelling central message as to hold your attention for longer periods of time. This Little Britain doesn't shy away from looking at the less honourable sides of British history, ranging from warfare to yob culture, but you cannot escape a feeling of discovery, amazement, and almost indignation, as you realise just how under-reported and varied Britain's achievements are.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Ever! 7 Dec 2007
Format:Hardcover
"This Little Britain" is one of the best books I have read - not only on history but on most other subjects as well!

It contains a wealth of interesting material, of which I was largely prevously unaware, all covered in a way that is guaranteed to maintain the interest of the reader.

Although I have lived in Britain all my life - I was amazed at the number of facts I had either forgotten,had never known in the first place or had misinterpreted.

I would recommend this book to anyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a top read 26 Nov 2007
Format:Hardcover
I found this book warm, engaging, and wonderfully informative about aspects of our history which I had previously no idea of at all. It's also beautifully written. Bingham deals in weighty matters with a very light touch, while not dumbing down at all. It's a history lesson for those of us who 'learnt' some of it at school but who remember far more about the view out of the window and over the chemistry lab. I'll definitely be getting it for my Dad for Christmas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good 4 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover
Unlike another reviewer, I did not find this book jingoistic - although I expected to. History is not my strong point, but the author makes a strong case for Britain's role as a world leader in many fields. It's not boastful - more that our particular circumstances made things happen this way. He doesn't shy away from the less attractive consequences of those circumstances either.

I read with a nervous expectation of bombastic patriotism, but it never happened.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous read! 1 Dec 2007
By Charlie
Format:Hardcover
This has to be one of the best historical reads I have ever encountered. I wlll be buying this for my dad this christmas!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless 10 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very interesting and I was amazed at how much my country had given to the rest of the world. His explanations especially of our unwritten constitution and laws were fascinating.Call me old fashioned but it was a wonderful change to read a book by someone who loves his country. Unhappily "this little Britain" seems to have few patriots these days.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
This book is a fun read and has certainly left me better educated. At times I would have liked a bit more detail or explanation but that would be to misunderstand the nature of the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J A CLARKE
2.0 out of 5 stars not my cup of tea
may be alright for some people but I found it a boring, uninformative book did not rate it at all
Published 4 months ago by ABl
5.0 out of 5 stars This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World.
This book is packed with all sorts of interesting out-of-the-way facts and is a good read. I can recommend it.
Published 6 months ago by GW
5.0 out of 5 stars Yay for us!
So much interesting stuff in such a little book! I couldn't put it down. Good to be reminded of reasons to be proud.
Published 6 months ago by Sally Sorento
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant; couldn't put it down!
This is without doubt the best read I have experienced for many years.
There are countless historical references to back up the opinions and assumptions in the book. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars This Little Britain
A very interesting book raising aspects of British social and general history and considering them foom different angles. We're not as bad as we thought. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mike Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars RULE BRITTANIA!
You will find this an interesting read.
And for free who can complain?
Add it to your library for those few spare moments.
Published 13 months ago by Bargain Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it
Very detailed descritions of how GB feartured in world events.

A little too much if you lnow what I mean
Published 17 months ago by steve
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
This book is written in a clever way in order to keep the reader interested, even if you are well read in history you will find something new in this book.
Published 19 months ago by tbw
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Everyone in Britain should read this. This is why it is Great Britain, fascinating stuff. I never realised we lead the world in so many areas.
Published 19 months ago by Vince
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