Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Five books exploring Britain’s island mentality

Madeleine Bunting was for many years a columnist for the Guardian, which she joined in 1990. Born in North Yorkshire, Bunting read History at Cambridge and Politics at Harvard. She is the author of several works of nonfiction and a new novel, Island Song.

At the Guardian Bunting tagged five books exploring Britain’s island mentality, including:
The crisis over Brexit has deep roots in a central trope of the English imagination: islands. Trace it back to John of Gaunt’s speech in Richard II – “this little world / This precious stone set in the silver sea / Which serves it in the office of a wall … This blessed plot” – and then follow the sequence of iconic titles from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe right down to the Lord of the Flies. Being an island has been a central part of English nationalism and generations of children (including, famously, David Cameron) learnt their history from HE Marshall’s Our Island Story, despite the title of that book being based on two obvious mistakes: England shares an island with two other nations, and Great Britain is actually an archipelago of 5,000 islands. English nationalism struggles with plurals, and for writers, the island trope has offered an easy way to pluck the heart strings of English sensibility.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue