Friday 10 May 2024

Blog Tour: What Everyone Knows About the British (Except the British), Michael Peel

This post is part of a blog tour. Thank you to Random Things Tours and Monoray for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy I will receive a percentage commission at no extra cost to you.

Having spent a number of years living abroad working as a Foreign Correspondent, Peel is surprised by the Britain he returns to. This is the jumping off point into an investigation into the myths Britons tell themselves about their history and current status in the world, and some harsh realities about what’s going on behind these myths. It is as up to date as you can hope from a book, with King Charles’ coronation included and the seemingly endless cycle of Tory PMs the country has suffered under in recent years. This is a no holds barred look at the state of modern Britain. If you’re a staunch nationalist who clings to the idea of the Blitz Spirit you may find this a difficult read, but this is not a rambling opinion piece, Peel’s work is grounded in research, input from experts, and attempts to receive comment from the organisations in question (which often go unanswered).

Brexit naturally makes a repeat appearance and early discussions involve a look at the misconceptions that may have contributed to the referendum’s outcome. It comes as no surprise that people over-estimate the levels of immigration, and underestimated (quite drastically) the amount of investment the EU provided. Peel also looks at the prevailing myths around the type of voter who opted to leave, and their motivations, all signs of political parties twisting the narrative to serve their purposes. Divisive rhetoric may have short term gains for them but ultimately will do more harm than good. 

Myths around Britain’s role in history, as epitomised in the Life in the UK test, taken by anyone who wants to settle here, are examined. The propensity to downplay the contributions of people from other countries in what are seen as successes contrast to the complete absolving of any guilt or participation in the darker parts of history. The role of Britain in colonial history is increasingly being brought to the fore by organisations such as the National Trust, but they receive a huge amount of pushback, not because what they are highlighting is false, but merely because many would rather pretend it didn’t happen. 

This ties in with the following section on monarchy, a popular topic for debate in recent years with the jubilee, passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III. Although many try to push down questions about the place of inherited privilege in the modern world and the Royal Family’s historic ties to colonialism and everything that came with it (as well as their less than transparent finances), the truth remains that there’s a lot to unpack. Throughout the book Peel compares Britain’s position to that of other countries, often ones that people would think of as more corrupt or less democratic, but which make apparent that there are a lot of similarities.  

This is a fascinating, well researched book which is likely to enrage you at times. I enjoyed learning more about the history and current political situations in other countries alongside reconsidering the current climate in the UK. For a book that deals with some heavy topics it is remarkably easy to read.

Pick up a copy:



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