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Anatomy of a Nation

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781472131881

Price: £30

ON SALE: 23rd September 2021

Genre: Humanities / History

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From an obscure, misty archipelago on the fringes of the Roman world to history’s largest empire and originator of the world’s mongrel, magpie language – this is Britain’s past. But, today, Britain is experiencing an acute trauma of identity, pulled simultaneously towards its European, Atlantic and wider heritages. To understand the dislocation and collapse, we must look back: to Britain’s evolution, achievements, complexities and tensions. In a ground-breaking new take on British identity, historian and barrister Dominic Selwood explores over 950,000 years of British history by examining 50 documents that tell the story of what makes Britain unique.

Some of these documents are well-known. Most are not. Each reveal something important about Britain and its people. From Anglo-Saxon poetry, medieval folk music and the first Valentine’s Day letter to the origin of computer code, Hitler’s kill list of prominent Britons, the Sex Pistols’ graphic art and the Brexit referendum ballot paper, Anatomy of a Nation reveals a Britain we have never seen before. People are at the heart of the story: a female charioteer queen from Wetwang, a plague surviving graffiti artist, a drunken Bible translator, outlandish Restoration rakehells, canting criminals, the eccentric fathers of modern typography and the bankers who caused the finance crisis.

Selwood vividly blends human stories with the selected 50 documents to bring out the startling variety and complexity of Britain’s achievements and failures in a fresh and incisive insight into the British psyche. This is history the way it is supposed to be told: a captivating and entertaining account of the people that built Britain.


[A] very current, thought-provoking reflection on what British history means today
Family Tree Magazine
Stimulating ... ambitious ... wide and varied ... clear and lively ... sections on Northern Ireland and the Falklands War are judicious, balanced and well-argued
Soldier magazine
The range and rich diversity of material are the chief strength of this book . . . a readable and enjoyable narrative history
An incredible insight into the private lives of people
The Times
Britain may be a country that has "lost its way" but history shows that solutions can be found ... The 50 documents are described in an accessible way that provokes an interest for scholars and casual history fans alike
Islington Gazette
Selwood chronicles Britain's past through a diverse - and sometimes unexpected - selection of historical documents
BBC HistoryExtra
Unique, informative, and compelling ... unreservedly recommended
Midwest Book Review
an enthralling account of how the British mindset has evolved ... a vivid picture of the many profound influences that have shaped Britain and its collective psyche... complicated ideas are described and explained with great clarity ... I struggled to put the book down.
Freemasonry Today
Many [chapters] reference British military actions at home and abroad . . . delve[s] into the context, importance and subsequent events that have come to define each conflict . . . shows the importance of the research Dominic Selwood has conducted.
Britain at War Magazine
A comprehensive survey of British history drawing on a vivid range of original texts
History News Network
An absorbing read . . . one of the joys of Selwood's writing is his cogent analysis . . . the exhaustive bibliography of sources attests to the depth of Selwood's research . . . an innovative history eruditely told
Law Society Gazette
An extraordinary new book . . . a wonderful gallop through the history of the nation . . . I enjoyed it enormously and I salute you, Dominic
White House Chronicle