The Rise and Fall of the British Nation
‘Forget almost everything you thought you knew about Britain … You will not find a better informed history’ David Goodhart, Evening Standard
‘A striking new perspective on our past’ Piers Brendon, Literary Review
From the acclaimed author of Britain’s War Machine and The Shock of the Old, a bold reassessment of Britain’s twentieth century.
It is usual to see the United Kingdom as an island of continuity in an otherwise convulsed and unstable Europe; its political history a smooth sequence of administrations, from building a welfare state to coping with decline. Nobody would dream of writing the history of Germany, say, or the Soviet Union in this way.
David Edgerton’s major new history breaks out of the confines of traditional British national history to redefine what it was to British, and to reveal an unfamiliar place, subject to huge disruptions. This was not simply because of the world wars and global economic transformations, but in its very nature. Until the 1940s the United Kingdom was, Edgerton argues, an exceptional place: liberal, capitalist and anti-nationalist, at the heart of a European and global web of trade and influence. Then, as its global position collapsed, it became, for the first time and only briefly, a real, successful nation, with shared goals, horizons and industry, before reinventing itself again in the 1970s as part of the European Union and as the host for international capital, no longer capable of being a nation.
Packed with surprising examples and arguments, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation gives us a grown-up, unsentimental history which takes business and warfare seriously, and which is crucial at a moment of serious reconsideration for the country and its future.
... refreshing and immensely stimulating, and should be compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand the reality of twentieth-century Britain. Lewis Namier, another historian known for his combative brand of scholarship, viewed iconoclasm as the judge of a great historian, that having produced an account of a period 'others should not be able to practise within its sphere in the terms of the preceding era'. Edgerton has certainly achieved this. -- Oliver Hadingham * History * Edgerton is an extraordinary historian ... Written with bracing elan, Rise and Fall generates insights at every turn. Edgerton set out to rattle "the cage of cliches which imprison our historical and political imaginations", and succeeds magnificently. -- Nick Pearce * OpenDemocracy * Timely jolt to a deluded 'Bullshit Britain'. David Edgerton fillets national delusion and historical amnesia ... of a country that knows so little of its own history. -- Chris Kissane * Irish Times * A sweepingly, and ambitiously, revisionist account of 20th century British history ... full of striking lines ... and a very important challenge to much of the existing historiography. -- Duncan Weldon * Progressive Review * Original, opinionated, scholarly, complex and immensely stimulating ... this ambitious and provocative book achieves something remarkable. It provides a striking new perspective on our past, one that future historians may not accept but will be unable to ignore. -- Piers Brendon * Literary Review * Beautifully written and can be read with pleasure by the general reader as well as the trained historian -- Vernon Bogdanor * Daily Telegraph * Unsentimental and rigorous rewriting of British history. ... It looks beyond the froth of political debate, takes business seriously and analyses government as much from Whitehall and administration as Westminster and politics. -- A. W. Purdue * Times Higher Education * Stimulating and bracing ... He demonstrates that the story the British tell about themselves - and how it is taught in schools and discussed in the public sphere - is bogus. -- Iain Martin * The Times * Forget almost everything you thought you knew about Britain in the 20th century ... You will not find a better informed history of this country in the last century. -- David Goodhart * Evening Standard * An extraordinary revisionist study of modern Britain ... Edgerton's aim here is nothing short of a radical repositioning of our sense of ourselves as a nation. It's a startling book, and an unexpected thesis ... I'll be reading [it] over and over, and for years to come.' -- Brian Morton * The Herald * A fierce and dazzling account of 20th-century Britain -- Christopher de Bellaigue * Guardian * Every so often a book comes out that the entire political class needs to read ... Edgerton is Britain's most exciting and arresting late-modern historian ... Thanks to this rich and compelling book, we now have a proper map and compass. -- Colin Kidd * New Statesman *
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