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The Last Wolf: The Hidden Springs of Englishness Kindle Edition
It is often assumed that the national identity must be a matter of values and ideas. But in Robert Winder's brilliantly-written account it is a land built on a lucky set of natural ingredients: the island setting that made it maritime; the rain that fed the grass that nourished the sheep that provided the wool, and the wheat fields that provided its cakes and ale. Then came the seams of iron and coal that made it an industrial giant.
In Bloody Foreigners Robert Winder told the rich story of immigration to Britain. Now, in The Last Wolf, he spins an English tale. Travelling the country, he looks for its hidden springs not in royal pageantry or politics, but in landscape and history.
Medieval monks with their flocks of sheep . . . cathedrals built by wool . . . the first shipment of coal to leave Newcastle . . . marital contests on a village green . . . mock-Tudor supermarkets - the story is studded with these and other English things.
And it starts by looking at a very important thing England did not have: wolves.
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Winder, who in 2004 wrote a compelling book about immigration called Bloody Foreigners, expertly navigates his subject without mentioning Brexit. Yet it has a pertinent lesson for some of the more excitable Brexiteers-we have never been an island nation ― Prospect
A fascinating attempt to find the sources of Englishness . . . Well-crafted, reflective and quite personal, The Last
Wolf is also original and deeply researched
A glorious romp through more than eight centuries, told with humour and charm, with the same themes recurring over the ages. Highly recommended -- William Hartston ― Daily Express
Winder is at his best when tracing how one thing became another. His excellent description of the rise of Lancashire's enormous cotton industry triggers a discussion of the slave trade and English morality . . . fascinating twists and turns ― The Times
A provocative and lively look at what has made the English who they are ― Sunday Times
The Last Wolf is an engaging ramble through the wool towns and open ranges of medieval England ― Spectator
[Winder] weaves a fabulous tale of wolves and sheep, water and coal, rain and agriculture, industry and architecture, pinpointing qualities that grew out of our landscape ― Independent i
An entertainingly discursive anatomy of the English character -- Jane Shilling ― Mail on Sunday
This is digestible, friendly, whimsical history: Winder is clearly allergic to boring history books and makes it his business not to write one -- Ysenda Maxtone Graham, author of Terms and Conditions ― Times Literary Supplement
I will return to its insights again and again ― Country Life
A truly brilliant account of the happy accidents of climate and geography that are the real source of our national identity. It is compulsively readable and packed full of information, anecdote and wit -- Sue Gaisford ― Tablet --This text refers to the digital edition.
- ASIN : B01N140NE8
- Publisher : Little, Brown Book Group (3 August 2017)
- Language : English
- File size : 6540 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 603 pages
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Winder takes his readers on a gentle journey from the middle ages to the present day. We visit all points in England from Berwick to the southernmost coasts. Chapters cover a very diverse range of topics - industrial history, landscape painting, architecture, gardening, etc. Winder points out how English wealth has always been built on waves of immigrants, such as the Angles, Flemish weavers and Irish navvies. He powerfully highlights how English views of progress are frequently based on an imagined past; so New Towns were frequently planned around idealised village greens. The more industrialised England became, the more nostalgia developed for a perfect pastoral rural idyll. For Winder such contradictions are key to the paradoxes of English character.
He writes in a quirky meandering anecdotal style. At times he might benefit from better fact-checking - Thomas Jefferson's plantation was in Virginia rather than the Carolinas; Samuel Morse was American not British. Nevertheless he offers fascinating insights in every chapter. He reminds us that one of the best lessons from history is that people tend to forget their pasts.
In summary his account is an entertaining, thought provoking, consideration about what it is to be English.
But, it is far, far too long and would have profited from a tough editor. It is far too wordy and in places, the author used too many examples of the same thought/argument--where two or three would have been fine. Some repetition.
I could never manage more than a (short) chapter at a time. I cam e away with an image of a metaphor of the author being drunk on the spirits of Englishness.
Nevertheless, the book is seriously good, very substantive and well-worth-reading.