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  • Published: 12 June 2022
  • ISBN: 9780753558737
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $52.99

Rule, Nostalgia

A Backwards History of Britain



Cambridge cultural historian Hannah Rose Woods explores the backwards history of Britain's enduring fixation with its own past.

* CHOSEN AS A BOOK TO WATCH IN 2022 BY THE NEW STATESMAN AND IRISH TIMES *

'Rule, Nostalgia is an eye-opening history of Britain's enduring fixation with its own past' - Jeremy Paxman


'Well-argued, timely and hugely entertaining' - Jonathan Coe, bestselling author of Middle England


'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____________________________________________________

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

Longing to go back to the 'good old days' is nothing new. For hundreds of years, the British have mourned the loss of older national identities and called for a revival 'simple', 'better' ways of life - from Margaret Thatcher's call 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.

But were the 'good old days' ever quite how we remember them? Beginning in the present, cultural historian Hannah Rose Woods takes us back on an eye-opening tour through five hundred years of Britain's perennial fixation with its own past to reveal that history is more complex than we care to remember. 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 pervasive myths about the past, and illuminates the remarkable influence that nostalgia's perpetual backwards glance has had on British history, politics and society.

Rule, Nostalgia is a timely and enlightening interrogation of national character, emotion, identity and myth making that elucidates how this nostalgic isle's history was written, re-written and (rightly or wrongly) remembered.

  • Published: 12 June 2022
  • ISBN: 9780753558737
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $52.99

About the author

Hannah Rose Woods

Hannah Rose Woods is a writer and cultural historian. She has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where she taught modern British history, and in 2016 captained her college's team to victory on that most nostalgic of television programmes, University Challenge. She has written on history, politics and culture for the New Statesman, the Guardian, History Today, Art UK and Elle magazine, and has appeared as a contributor on Dan Snow's History Hit Podcast, Tortoise Media ThinkIns, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 4's Front Row, the Today programme, The World at One and The World Tonight to discuss topics including nostalgia, public history, Victorian culture, gender equality and universities.

Twitter: @hannahrosewoods

Praise for Rule, Nostalgia

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

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

Jeremy Paxman

A smart, entertaining and meticulously researched backwards look (quite literally) at Britain's history of looking over its shoulder. Deconstructs the lure of the fictitious 'good old days' and how they have been weaponised throughout history. Excellent

Otto English, author of Fake History

A great, scholarly history, and so searingly relevant

Dan Snow, author of On This Day in History

An utterly eye-opening and enthralling debut, clearly laying out our uniquely British obsession with nostalgia. Required reading for anyone who wants to use the term 'culture war'... I absolutely loved it

Fern Riddell, author of Death in Ten Minutes: The forgotten life of radical suffragette Kitty Marion

Outstanding. A thrilling, elegant and highly original interrogation of how we use our pasts

Musa Okwonga, author of One of Them: An Eton College Memoir

Nostalgia was once considered a terminal condition. Hannah Woods suggests that the culture needs to book itself in for a check-up. Provocative and well-argued, Rule, Nostalgia offers the diagnosis that might lead us to a cure

Matthew Sweet

A triumphal backwards tour through the history of Britain's relationship with its own past. This funny, sad, wise and brilliantly informative book is a crash course in the many pasts that have made our presents

Peter Mitchell, author of Imperial Nostalgia: How the British Conquered Themselves

Well-argued, timely and hugely entertaining. A great piece of popular history

Jonathan Coe, bestselling author of Middle England

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