Britain Explained: Understanding British Identity

By Martin Upham
Ebook*: £20.00

*Subscribe now to our newsletter to save an extra 15%


Martin Upham, the author of Britain Explained, spent many years teaching the ‘Britain Today’ course to Americans ‘studying abroad’ in London, where he was the director of AHA International (now GEO). This book is based on that experience.

Martin shows how the United Kingdom is and always has been a complex country of varied and at times clashing identities, expressed in every aspect of its history and contemporary life. The result is a fascinating expedition that in one highly-readable volume will give students and other visitors from abroad a rich and rounded understanding of Britain today.

Starting with an explanation of the constitutional and parliamentary system, the book then moves on to a description of the four nations that make up the UK, looking at what unites them and what divides them. London gets a chapter on its own. A chapter dedicated to Brexit explores the fault lines exposed by the EU referendum. Further chapters follow on foreign affairs, the economy, social identities, religion, education, culture, sport, the media, the health service, the law, science, and the environment. Each chapter is packed with useful facts and informative well-balanced commentary.

As Martin explains ‘My biggest debt is to the thousands of young Americans … whose gatekeeper to British culture I was for 22 years. While writing, I was talking to them. Britain Explained is written for those following in their footsteps.’

The book includes more than 130 illustrations of British historical and contemporary personalities and places and a detailed index.

Table of Contents

  1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  2. Political parties, parliament and elections
  3. Monarchy, government and the constitution
  4. England and the Union
  5. Ireland and the Union
  6. Wales and the Union
  7. Scotland and the Union
  8. London
  9. Brexit!
  10. Facing the world
  11. An open economy
  12. Social identities
  13. A nation of unbelievers
  14. Not just Eton and Oxford
  15. Culture for all
  16. Playing the game
  17. The news media
  18. From the cradle to the grave
  19. The law of the land
  20. Science superpower
  21. A green and pleasant land?

Illustrations throughout.

About Martin Upham

Martin Upham was a prominent figure in the ‘study abroad’ world for a quarter of a century, also teaching at Birkbeck College and the Open University. He has degrees from Manchester, Bristol and Hull universities and was formerly research officer of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation.

Martin has always combined teaching with writing. His publications include Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations of the World (1993), Tempered – Not Quenched: the history of the ISTC 1951-1997, and A Visitor’s Britain (2000) as well as reviews and articles for diverse publications including the Industrial Relations Journal, the Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History and the London Literary Review.

Product Details

Publication Date
2017 (revised, 2020)
Page Count
129 x 198mm