What Everyone Knows About Britain* (*Except The British)

Michael Peel


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Octopus Publishing Group
25 April 2024
ISBN: 9781800961760
384 pages

From the publisher

An award-winning foreign correspondent takes off the rose-tinted spectacles and reveals what Britain really looks like from abroad.

'A rare writer with the courage to tell Britain some home truths about itself and where it's headed. A much needed book'. - Ian Dunt

'What Britain needs at the moment is not to be talked up or talked down, but simply a sense of itself that's underpinned by clarity and honesty... This is exactly what Michael Peel provides in this persuasive, good-humoured book.' - Jonathan Coe

'A wake-up call for those still under the illusion that Great Britain plc punches above its weight'. - Chris Mullin, author of A Very British Coup

'Entertaining and smart.' - Geoff Norcott

'Michael Peel is a top class thinker and writer. This is a necessary book as well as an extremely entertaining one.' - Simon Kuper

'Sharp, witty and eye-opening. As Peel convincingly argues, we can do so much better.' - Matthew Parker, author of One Fine Day: Britain's Empire On the Brink

How do you see Britain? That might depend on your point of view, and as long time British foreign correspondent, Michael Peel has come to understand, it can look very different from outside.

It's tempting to think of the UK as a fundamentally stable and successful nation. But events of the past few years, from Brexit to exposés of imperial history, have begun to spark fierce public debates about whether that is true. Is Britain, just a marginal northern European island nation, marked by injustices, corruption and with a bloody history of slavery, repression and looting? And yet UK politics, media, and public opinion live constantly in the shadow of old myths, Second World War era nostalgia, and a belief in supposedly core British values of tolerance, decency and fair play. British politicians regularly exploit a damaging complacency that holds that everything will turn out okay, because, in Britain, it always does.

In WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT BRITAIN, Michael Peel digs into the national consciousness with the perspective of distance to pull apart the ways in which we British have become unmoored from crucial truths about ourselves. He shows us that from many perspectives we are no different from other countries whose own national delusions have seen them succumb to abuses of power, increased poverty and divisive conflict.

The battle over Britain's narrative is the struggle for its future and its place in the world. So, how do we escape the trick mirror - and see ourselves as we really are?