Our search for the hidden springs of Englishness begins in 1290 with the slaying of the last wolf in England by Sir Peter Corbet. As the story goes, this made the country safe enough to become a vast sheep farm and that, in turn, produced the wool that produced the wealth that produced the revenues that, along with much else, produced the lords and ladies and caramel-coloured churches that all the world knows as English. After the wool came the wheat, and after the wheat came the coal, which plunged the country into a future of steel rails and smoking cities. After coal and empire (I’m hurrying on here) came our current dilemmas and Brexit, the real beginning and end of Robert Winder’s 800-year journey into national consciousness.
In 2004, he wrote a book about English attitudes to immigration called Bloody Foreigners, which cast us, more or less, as a sort of Millwall-in-the-Sea. Bigotry was our game and we didn’t care who knew it. In those days, Winder seemed to think he had no national identity