Rule, Nostalgia

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Britain is an island ruled by nostalgia, but nostalgia today isn’t what it used to be…

For hundreds of years, the British have mourned the loss of older national identities, and called for a revival of the ‘good old days’ – from Margaret Thatcher’s desire for a return to ‘Victorian values’ in the 1980s, to William Blake’s protest against the ‘dark satanic mills’ of the Industrial Revolution that were fast transforming England’s green and pleasant land, to sixteenth-century observers looking back wistfully to a ‘Merry England’ before the upheavals of the Reformation. By the time we reach the 1500s, we find a country nostalgic for a vision of home that looks very different to our own.

Beginning in the present, cultural historian Hannah Rose Woods travels backwards on an eye-opening tour through six centuries of Britain’s perennial fixation with its own past, asking why nostalgia has been such an enduring and seductive emotion across hundreds of years of change. Woods separates the history from the fantasy, debunks dangerous and pervasive myths about Britain’s past, and explores the ways in which nostalgia has historically been mobilised in Britain across the political spectrum, from the radical left to the nationalist right, for both good and for ill.

Rule, Nostalgia is a timely and illuminating interrogation of national character, emotion, identity and myth making that will help us to understand Britain: past, present and future.

© Hannah Rose Woods 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Critics Review

  • Rule, Nostalgia announces Woods as one of the most interesting new historians of her generation

    Dan Jones, Sunday Times
  • Eye-opening and thoughtful… Woods has a bright future ahead of her

    The Telegraph
  • Fascinating and timely, Rule, Nostalgia is an eye-opening history of Britain’s enduring fixation with its own past

    Jeremy Paxman
  • Our national story is so much stranger than we think: this book brilliantly insists that we look at it afresh

    James Hawes, bestselling author of The Shortest History of England
  • Well-argued, timely and hugely entertaining. A great piece of popular history

    Jonathan Coe, bestselling author of Middle England
  • A great, scholarly history, and so searingly relevant

    Dan Snow, author of On This Day in History

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