John Healy - The Venerable Bede - William Shakespeare - Bill Bryson - Christopher Hitchens - Genius of Britain: The Scientists Who Changed the World TV - Will Hutton - John Pilger - Gary Beadle TV - Simon Schama TV - George Orwell - Margaret Thatcher - Peter Cook - Yes Minister TV - Tony Benn - Tacitus - James Thomson - Hughie Green - William Somerville - Nostradamus - Julian Barnes - George Bernard Shaw - Sebastian Barry - George Harrison - The British TV - Mills & Godfrey & Scott - Andrew Marvell - Tony Blair - Oscar Wilde - Winston Churchill - Quentin Crisp - Joan Collins - Ian Hislop - Kazuo Ishiguro - Great Britons TV - Great Britons TV - Cunk on Britain TV - A Very British History TV - New Ancient X-Files TV -
I hate these academics that get praise, and they’re shallow. It’s all smug and bullshit. [Ian] McEwan and [Martin] Amis and all them. Middle-class mafia … They can buy their way to a lifelong competitive advantage over the uneducated and poor. This middle-class business, it’s the only place in the world where it’s really strong because it comes right down from the Queen. It’s a nepotistic way British society is run. They don’t draw from the whole gene pool, like America. That’s why you get good writers in America. There’s never been any great writers here in England, not in the last century. Look at Kingsley Amis. You can’t believe in the characters he writes about. And the experiences he attributes to them. And yet they made him a Sir. They’re disgusting people really. It can be treacherous, the publishing world. John Healy interview May 2012
Britain is an island in the ocean formally known as Albion. The Venerable Bede
Is this the government of Britain’s isle,
And in her heart she scorns our poverty. William Shakespeare, II Henry VI I iii 47
I am constantly filled with admiration at this – at the way you can wander through a town like Oxford and in the space of a few hundred yards pass the home of Christopher Wren, the buildings where Halley found his comet and Boyle his first law, the track where Roger Banister ran the first sub four-minute mile, the meadow where Lewis Carroll strolled; or how you can stand on Snow's Hill at Windsor and see, in a single sweep, Windsor Castle, the playing fields of Eton, the churchyard where Gray wrote his Elegy, the site The Merry Wives of Windsor was first performed. Can there anywhere on earth be, in such a modest span, a landscape more packed with centuries of busy, productive attainment? Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
So this is where all the vapid talk about the ‘soul’ of the universe is actually headed. Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The ‘vacuum’ will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labour of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover. An awful embarrassment awaits the British if they do not declare for a republic based on verifiable laws and principles, both political and scientific. Christopher Hitchens
Britain has a tremendous scientific legacy that most people know little about. Genius of Britain: The Scientists Who Changed the World, Channel 4 2012
That world has gone. The anchors have dissolved or are dissolving. There is neither a monetary nor religious anchor. The pound floats; Catholicism is mired in the horrifying sexual antics of its priests; CEOs pay themselves salaries without limits. The great visions of how one might associate with others – in an Empire, a Commonwealth, a socialist economy, a commune, a religious community, a trade union or even a company – have become implausible. We are individualists in a not very sovereign nation state being buffeted around by economic forces beyond our control. We madly find meaning in cults and celebrity, overinvesting in family as the last redoubt of meaning, while reconciling ourselves to fewer public services and cynical companies even while the country is very much richer. Will Hutton, The Baby Boomers and the Price of Personal Freedom
Freedom is being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message. Police can wilfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie and expect to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The foreign secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the justice secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The litany is cursory; there is much more ...
Freedoms are being lost in Britain because of the rapid growth of the ‘national security state’. This form of militarism was imported from the United States by New Labour. Totalitarian in essence, it relies upon fear mongering to entrench the executive with venal legal mechanisms that progressively diminish democracy and justice. ‘Security’ is all, as is propaganda promoting rapacious colonial wars, even as honest mistakes. Take away this propaganda, and the wars are exposed for what they are, and fear evaporates. Take away the obeisance of many in Britain’s liberal elite to American power and you demote a profound colonial and crusader mentality that covers for epic criminals like Blair. Prosecute these criminals and change the system that breeds them and you have freedom. John Pilger, article New Statesman, ‘War Comes Home to Britain’; viz also website
For the first time since the Great Depression, Britain the so-called Welfare State is deliberately cutting back the means of survival of its poorest and their children ... Perhaps the least understood crisis in the last few months has been that more and more impoverished parents can no longer afford to feed their children ... A Child Poverty Action group report last month stated that 5,000,000 men, women and children in Britain now have no more than £1.60 a week to spend on food. John Pilger, Smashing the Kids
Their conquest in the Caribbean and in West Africa earned them two Victoria Crosses and the personal favour of Queen Victoria. But these heroes of the empire were despised by whites and seen as traitors to their race by blacks ... The history of the West India Regiment. Gary Beadle, The First Black Britons, BBC 2005
The British travelled to West Africa to trade with African chiefs and their European agents for slaves to bring to the Caribbean and the Americas. ibid.
By 1799 there were twelve West India regiments. ibid.
White men were legally allowed to abuse black soldiers. ibid.
In 1807 the government passes a law that frees all of the regiments’ 10,000+ black troops at a stroke ... They are the very first black Britons. ibid.
One commodity would be reaped by another: by slaves ... The economy in the Caribbean wasn’t just a side-show to Empire, it was the Empire. Three and a half million slaves were transported in British ships alone. Simon Schama, A History of Britain s2e4: The Wrong Empire, BBC 2001
I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘England’, ‘Britain’, as though forty-five million souls could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not England notoriously two nations, the rich and the poor? Dare one pretend that there is anything in common between people with £100,000 a year and people with £1 a week? And even Welsh and Scottish readers are likely to have been offended because I have used the word ‘England’ oftener than ‘Britain’, as though the whole population dwelt in London and the Home Counties and neither north nor west possessed a culture of its own … George Orwell, England Your England III
Thatcher’s Britain! Thatcher’s bloody Britain! The Young Ones: Summer Holiday, BBC 1984
I’m backing Britain. Slogan coined by workers of Colt factory and subsequently used in national campaign, cited The Times 1st January 1968
I can’t bear Britain in decline. I just can’t. We who either defeated or rescued half Europe. Who keep half Europe free! When otherwise it would be in chains. And look at us now. Margaret Thatcher
If you lead a country like Britain, a strong country, a country which has taken a lead in world affairs in good times and in bad, a country that is always reliable, then you have to have a touch of iron about you. Margaret Thatcher
I went first to America. And there I had talks with a young vigorous president. We talked of many things. Including Great Britain’s position in the world as some kind of an honest broker. And I agreed with him that no nation could be more honest. And he agreed with me ... Peter Cook, Beyond the Fringe, 1961
We’ve no real power; we’re just a sort of American missile base, that’s all. Yes, Minister Christmas Special: Party Games, Jim to Bernard, BBC 1984
When I think of cool Britannia, I think of people dying of hypothermia. Tony Benn, Labour politician & author
Britain today is suffering from galloping obsolescence. Tony Benn