"There is something special about England, the verdant southern part of a small island off the coast of Europe." So writes John Lewis-Stempel, editor of England: The Autobiography — 2,000 years of English history by those who saw it happen. Lewis-Stempel agrees that it was an exaggeration when Cecil John Rhodes said that be born an Englishman was to have "won first prize in the lottery of life". Nevertheless, he says that even in medieval times and dark ages, living in England "has invariably been a better lot (for its people) — freer, more stable, more plentiful" than those experienced by people in other countries. Lewis-Stempel points out that George Orwell believed that for an biography to be trusted, it had to reveal something shameful, and, Lewis-Stempel says, this the book does. "It does not forget the holocaustum of the Jews in York in 1190, the stomach-heaving slums of Manchester in 1844 and the massacre of the reformers at Peterloo in 1819." He says England has a special pl...

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