Being British

Our Once and Future Selves

How liberals can discover and be part of a new post-traditional story and perhaps come to actually feel proud of being British

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Being British, Our Once & Future Selves is a journey into British culture and identity today, outlining a welcome new story for ourselves in these times of lack of belonging.

It's a book for liberals, and those who feel themselves to be post-traditional, not defined by nationality. The book takes a thought-provoking angle, which is neither Left nor Right, but instead brings the novel lens of a developmental view. What's different about this book is in how it connects the dots between past, present and future, integrating the shadow side. It draws on many unusual examples and is spiced with humour despite being serious. It's not an academic work - rather a fresh story of what it means to be British, where the author is included in the narrative. Without being nostalgic, it restores a sense of rootedness and helps us appreciate our British qualities, incrementally built over a millennium and a half. It celebrates being British as elective and not based on race and demonstrates how to have pride in our nationality in a post-traditional way.


This is a sane, witty and shrewd picture of British identity—neither cynical nor paranoid, which is quite an achievement. Chris Parish sketches very skilfully the history and habits that make up this many-layered identity and gives us some essential tools for working out what we can properly celebrate, what we should properly regret and what we might reasonably hope for—what a mature sense of national self-esteem might look like. ~ Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, theologian, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge

Enjoyed its breadth and ambition—and optimism ~ David Goodhart, founder of Prospect magazine, former Director of Demos think tank, author of The British Dream

Chris Parish has written a comprehensive, provocative and deeply thoughtful exploration of what it means to be British today. He skilfully integrates a wide range of perspectives and approaches to provide a much needed and refreshing synthesis of the positive potential of British identity, understanding and belonging. He is fearless in his honesty and in addressing all the arenas which he believes are vital to a rearticulation of the 'British Journey' and a powerfully constructive and important role for Britain into the future. As a British citizen I felt inspired, challenged and expanded by the book, but most of all, a powerful pride, delight and enhanced positivity about being British. A must read for anyone interested in the nature of Britishness and a much needed contribution to this field. ~ Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, previously Chief Executive of three organisations in the UK Further Education sector, currently organisational consultant

Thought provoking, humbling, inspiring—a veritable tour de force. Concerned that our postcolonial guilt has left no metanarrative or clear sense of who we are, Parish steps lightly, yet studiously, through our shared story. He encourages us to be in touch with the creative thread of this country, to know the past, warts and all, so that we might rediscover our connection, continuity and rootedness and remain a major player in the postmodern world. I am left with strengthened pride in being British. ~ Prof Julia Hausermann MBE, founder and President, Rights and Humanity

Chris Parish provides a welcome reasoned statement for moderation and integration in approaching major issues and Britain’s place in the world. Parish calls for taking a long-term approach to these issues, one that incorporates a more positive view of Britain’s past while integrating that history into British identity and Britain’s approach to current problems. ~ Dr George L Bernstein, Professor of History, Tulane University Author of The Myth of Decline: The Rise of Britain since 1945