Being British: Our Once & Future Selves is a journey into British culture and identity today, outlining a welcome new story for ourselves in these times of lack of belonging.
It's a book for the liberally minded, and those who feel themselves to be post-traditional, not defined by nationality. The book takes a thought-provoking angle, which is neither Left nor Right, but instead brings the novel lens of a developmental view. It connects the dots between past, present and future, integrating the shadow side, and draws on many unusual examples.
This is a fresh story of what it means to be British, where the author is included in the narrative. Without being nostalgic, it restores a sense of rootedness and helps us appreciate our British qualities, incrementally built over a millennium and a half. It celebrates being British as elective and not based on race, and demonstrates how to have pride in our nationality in a post-traditional way.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
This is a sane, witty and shrewd picture of British identity—neither cynical nor paranoid, which is quite an achievement. Chris Parish sketches very skilfully the history and habits that make up this many-layered identity and gives us some essential tools for working out what we can properly celebrate, what we should properly regret and what we might reasonably hope for—what a mature sense of national self-esteem might look like.
~ Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, theologian, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
This book was fresh and there were things I had never pondered about, until I read it.
I especially enjoyed Parish's words on British pessimism from the best selling books with awfully negative titles and then with broken gym equipment branded with signs stating their dysfunctional state. Why do we not resolve our issues? Complaining doesn't solve anything. I'm sure it's an English proverb which dictates "there is no use crying over spilled milk". As Parish writes: "...a common characteristic of British culture is to complain while having no intention of doing anything about it."
He later asks: "...why do we British tend to have this pessimistic glass-half-empty attitude to our country and to life?" And, I feel that yet it may be because of the fall of our Great Empire but it's socially ingrained in us. If we are remotely hallier than our peers, something 'big' must have happened. All of us, British individuals, share this same thought: why so pessimist? Is it just because these pessimistic attitudes are prevalent in the tv soaps we watch for entertainment? Eastenders, anyone?
Chris Parish recognises that: "Books about the English or the British tend to give lists of peculiar habits and characteristics of ours which are supposed to be definitive of our nationality, but inevitably they are superficial and also tend to be rather silly stereotypes: we are tea drinking, warm-beer swigging, cricket loving, Marmite scoffing, fish & chip enthusiasts; reserved folk who are very polite and at the same time repressed and feeling permanent embarrassment for the mere fact that we exist; saying sorry for having our own foot trodden on by someone else." And, I'm pleased to remark that this book is nothing of the sort. ~ Saarah N , Goodreads + Amazon via NetGalley
Enjoyed its breadth and ambition—and optimism ~ David Goodhart, founder of Prospect magazine, former Director of Demos think tank, author of The British Dream
Chris Parish has written a comprehensive, provocative and deeply thoughtful exploration of what it means to be British today. He skilfully integrates a wide range of perspectives and approaches to provide a much needed and refreshing synthesis of the positive potential of British identity, understanding and belonging. He is fearless in his honesty and in addressing all the arenas which he believes are vital to a rearticulation of the 'British Journey' and a powerfully constructive and important role for Britain into the future. As a British citizen I felt inspired, challenged and expanded by the book, but most of all, a powerful pride, delight and enhanced positivity about being British. A must read for anyone interested in the nature of Britishness and a much needed contribution to this field. ~ Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, previously Chief Executive of three organisations in the UK Further Education sector, currently organisational consultant
Thought provoking, humbling, inspiring—a veritable tour de force. Concerned that our postcolonial guilt has left no metanarrative or clear sense of who we are, Parish steps lightly, yet studiously, through our shared story. He encourages us to be in touch with the creative thread of this country, to know the past, warts and all, so that we might rediscover our connection, continuity and rootedness and remain a major player in the postmodern world. I am left with strengthened pride in being British. ~ Prof Julia Hausermann MBE, founder and President, Rights and Humanity
Chris Parish provides a welcome reasoned statement for moderation and integration in approaching major issues and Britain’s place in the world. Parish calls for taking a long-term approach to these issues, one that incorporates a more positive view of Britain’s past while integrating that history into British identity and Britain’s approach to current problems. ~ Dr George L Bernstein, Professor of History, Tulane University Author of The Myth of Decline: The Rise of Britain since 1945