* CHOSEN AS A BOOK TO WATCH IN 2022 BY THE NEW STATESMAN AND IRISH TIMES *
‘Rule, Nostalgia announces Woods as one of the most interesting new historians of her generation’ – Dan Jones, Sunday Times
‘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.