University of Leicester eBulletin

Book of the Year by University Historian

December 2002

No 273

What is it to be English?

In considering this elusive question, Robert Colls of the University of Leicester's Department of Economic and Social History, has produced a book acclaimed Book of the Year by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg in the Observer newspaper on December 1, 2002.

When it was published earlier in the year, Identity of England also received fulsome praise in The Independent, The Literary Review, The Scotsman, and The Times’ Literary Supplement, and was BBC History Magazines book of the month for October.  It starts with George Orwell’s eight points of Englishness, but then goes back to 1066 in order to follow the question right up to present times.

In 1944 Orwell was able to identify a common culture for the English people, but Colls is less sure that this is still the case today.

Beginning with a consideration of how the English state first began to identify an English nation, he goes on to look at how, in modern times, that nation has survived revolutions in technology, urban living, and global conflict.

Dr Robert Colls said: “I am pleased that the book has been so well received.  It seems I have written a book about the past that the reviewers think has some bearing on our present and future lives”.  

Identity of England, published by Oxford University Press Inc in June 2002 costs £25.00 and is available from the University of Leicester Bookshop and all other good bookshops.

NOTE TO EDITORS:   Further information is available from Robert Colls, University of Leicester Department of Economic and Social History, telephone 0116 252 2584, facsimile 0116 252 5081, email

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