Great Britain / England

If you live in the United States, you've been affected by British culture. The English language most of us speak is only one example of the many ways American culture has grown out of British culture—the original 13 Colonies were largely settled by English immigrants, and they left their mark on the conventions, social structure, and ideals of the New World. Even something as "American" as apple pie has its roots in Olde England, where it has been made and eaten since the Middle Ages.

It's not just white Americans who owe so much to the British. Because the English largely determined the culture of the country in its early stages, all subsequent citizens have consequently inherited a shared heritage. There is certainly more diversity in the 21st century than there was 100 or even 50 years ago, and American culture is in a constant state of flux due to its ever-changing demographic, but it remains true that we've all beenAnglicizedto some degree or other.

This has led many to become Anglophiles. It would be a lie to say there are none at Exodus Books (though not all the employees share the same enthusiasm), and this has to some extent determined the nature of our selection, particularly in history and literature. Anglophiles are simply those with an excessive interest in all things English, or those whose view of history sees the West as represented by Great Britain as the starting and focal point for all study of history. The latter view is obviously flawed, but the former usually manifests itself in mostly harmless ways.

Like U.S. history, British history isn't entirely of a piece. The British Isles include five distinct regions (England, Scotland and Wales on the Eastern island; Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Western), and each has its own history, people groups, and languages. In recent years these areas have become slightly more united in theory, though high levels of regional pride still exist. Also like Americans, the British people are a mix of indigenous races and foreigners, many of them invaders in the ancient and early Medieval periods.

England in particular has always enjoyed a prominent role in world culture and affairs. Though their range of influence has lessened in the last few decades, the hand of the English can still be seen in the remnants of Empire: in India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and all the other Commonwealth nations around the world. Historical epochs like the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment have always found a strong foothold in the Isles, and the British have frequently been at the forefront of social and humanitarian reform, particularly in the case of slavery.

At the same time, the British have always been distinct in their own identity and culture, recognizable the world over for their careful scholarship, incredible works of art, awesome sense of humor, and stiff-upper-lippedness. Despite having been attacked and settled by Romans, Germans, Vikings, and Franks, the Isles' Celtic heritage remains (though to be fair, the Celts were also interlopers). British history is both essential for understanding our own (U.S.) history, and for the shape of the whole modern world. It's also fascinating to study in its own right, not least for its frequently bizarre moments.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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