Rule, Nostalgia


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.

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‘A must read’ – Janina Ramirez, bestselling author of Femina

‘An eye-opening history of Britain’s enduring fixation with its own past’ – Jeremy Paxman

Rule, Nostalgia announces Woods as one of the most interesting new historians of her generation’ Dan Snow

Longing to go back to the ‘good old days’ is nothing new. For hundreds of years, the British have mourned the loss of tradition and called for a revival of ‘simpler’, ‘better’ ways of life, from modern politicians indulging in fantasies of an imperial past, to Victorian artists yearning to retreat into a medieval dream of Merry England. But were the ‘good old days’ ever quite how we remember them?

Rule, Nostalgia is a surprising, timely new history of Britain that separates the history from the fantasy and traces back to its origins the powerful influence that nostalgia’s perpetual backwards glance has had on British history, politics and society.