As Michael Wood's "Story of England" debuts this week on BBC4, Maurice Glasman wonders whether Wood leaves the greatest questions unaskedby Maurice Glasman / September 22, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
Wat Tyler is killed by the Lord Mayor of London during the peasants revolt of 1381
The Story of England
by Michael Wood (Viking, £20)
There is a political void where England should be. While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy devolved government, the English do not govern themselves. Parliament, the traditional assembly of the English people, represents the union and not the nation. England, as a political nation, has no body and it cannot speak.
England poses difficult political questions for progressives. Football and the monarchy are the popular focus of English nationalism, and the expression of support for both has never been a comfortable one for the left. England, has become, in some ways, a foreign country. And yet Labour’s future depends on it being able to reconnect to England, to its traditions and language. As Michael Wood, the author of The Story of England, writes: “For a small country on the far western shore of the Eurasian landmass, its influence on the world of literature, language, politics, law and ideas of freedom has been out of all proportion to its size. Why that should have been is an interesting question in itself.”