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The Union Jack: The Story of the British Flag Paperback – 26 Jul 2017
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Enterprising and challenging... engaging and interesting history - history as seen from a specific and highly appropriate vantage. -- Peter Ackroyd * The Times * Fascinating... works well as a potted history of Britain right back to the days when warriors carried dragon standards, and also as a pot pourri of useful trivia. -- James Delingpole * Mail on Sunday * 'Masterly.' -- Julia Keay * Literary Review * Groom is an illuminating essayist in various aspects of British culture; humour and flashes of historical oddity make the book immensely readable... Groom explores this history with an unfailing inquisitiveness... Union Jack establishes itself as essential reading in the background to current debates about British identity. -- Mike Phillips * Guardian * Vivid, fascinating and carefully researched history... Groom enters a robust, positive and wholly persuasive defence of the retention of the Union Jack as a symbol of coherence and unity in a multiracial society and what has become a federal kingdom... Bravo. -- Jeffrey Richards * Times Higher Education Supplement * A pertinent contribution to the enduring conversation about what it means to be British. -- Claire Allfree * Metro * A wonderfully exuberant book... marvellously rich... Groom's scope is formidable and this, together with the acuity of his judgements and the brio of his deployment of a vast wealth of resources, makes the work a model of cultural history for our time. -- Hugh Lawson-Tancred * The Liberal * Fascinating -- Paul Callan * Daily Express *
About the Author
Nick Groom is an academic and writer. He is Professor in English at the University of Exeter and has written widely on literature, music, and contemporary art. He is the author of a dozen books and editions, including The Forger's Shadow (2002), The Union Jack (2006), The Gothic (2012) and, most recently, The Seasons (2013). He lives on Dartmoor with his wife, two daughters, and one cat, and keeps a flock of Black Welsh Mountain sheep. When he is not writing, he can be found playing the hurdy-gurdy in local pubs.
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31 January 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A very good history. Well worth reading to sort out the BBC and other clever folk who insist that it must be called the Union Flag unless flown from the Jack staff of a British warship. Union Jack has been used generally since the 18th century and there was even law passed to support it by Parliament around 1901.
30 January 2016
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is much more than a history of the Union Jack – in many ways it is a short history of the British Isles as such, animated by the idea of union as it has been expressed since the age of Bede (in this, Groom is writing against such works as Norman Davis’s *The Isles*, which takes a much more fragmented approach to British history). Groom is at his best discussing the shifting meanings of the Union Jack in the twentieth century; his expertise in English literature has also unearthed a number of obscure and interesting poems and plays that he quotes. Groom is on much shakier ground in the Middle Ages, however. He associates St. George with the “renewal of fertility through ritualized slaughter… characteristic of folk and pagan figures such as the Fisher King”; there is no real evidence of this, and even less in the idea that English mummers’ plays are a “faint survival” of it. Richard I did not make St. George the patron saint of England, and the idea that Edward I adopted St. George for his Welsh wars on account of the saint’s dragon-slaying is tenuous. The Order of the Garter’s strap-and-buckle device is unlikely to be a reference to the girdle that the princess of Silene threw around the dragon’s neck in order to tame it, and the unfurling of the Oriflamme by the king of France did not signify that “no prisoners were to be taken.” Other errors abound, like a reference to “Garter Knight of Arms” or to the shield of St. Edward the Confessor being red with a gold triangular device of the Holy Trinity on it. This book, indeed, often gives the impression of having been written in haste to meet the 400th anniversary deadline. A thorough editing is therefore in order, but the book is still useful from about chapter 4 on, the beginning of Groom’s discussion of the actual Union Jack as first formulated by King James.
12 September 2007
This book is more than its title states. It examines the history of the countries in the British Isles and their development up to the present United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. You will learn many new things like the origin of the three lions on England shirts and why we legally have no national anthem let alone no English one at all. You will find in the light of history why it is no surprise that this years bicentenary of England and Scotland's union went uncelebrated. The rise and fall of a United Kingdom is herein explained. The one frustration in the book is the absence of a decent set of illustrations. Why rely on words to describe flags when they are visual symbols, best illustrated not described? The author is an enthusiast for the Union. I fear he is standing amid a flowing tide of nationalism.
17 May 2006
Until I read 'The Union Jack' I had no idea why the symbol of Scotland is a thistle, that the English national icon could have been a mole, or who on earth designed Britain's universally-recognisable red, white and blue flag. This book weaves a story that begins with tattooed ancient Britons, takes in lions rampant on battle standards, and climaxes with Union Jack knickers and Geri Halliwell in THAT dress. Alive with curious facts to fascinate both the history enthusiast and the analyst of contemporary culture, Nick Groom's The Union Jack is essential reading for anyone interested in the vexing, vexillogical (yes, a word I learnt from this book) questions of where British identity came from, what it is today, and how it might survive the C21st.
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