Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears

Hardcover | October 1, 2015

byThomas Dixon

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There is a persistent myth about the British: that we are a nation of stoics, with stiff upper lips, repressed emotions, and inactive lachrymal glands. Weeping Britannia - the first history of crying in Britain - comprehensively debunks this myth. Far from being a persistent element in the "national character", the notion of the British stiff upper lip was in fact the product of a relatively brief and militaristic period of our past, from about 1870 to 1945. In earlier times we were a nation of proficient, sometimes virtuosic moral weepers.To illustrate this perhaps surprising fact, Thomas Dixon charts six centuries of weeping Britons, and theories about them, from the medieval mystic Margery Kempe in the early fifteenth century, to Paul Gascoigne's famous tears in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup. In between, the book includesthe tears of some of the most influential figures in British history, from Oliver Cromwell to Margaret Thatcher (not forgetting George III, Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, and Winston Churchill along the way).But the history of weeping in Britain is not simply one of famous tear-stained individuals. These tearful micro-histories all contribute to a bigger picture of changing emotional ideas and styles over the centuries, touching on many other fascinating areas of our history. For instance, the book alsoinvestigates the histories of painting, literature, theatre, music and the cinema to discover how and why people have been moved to tears by the arts, from the sentimental paintings and novels of the eighteenth century and the romantic music of the nineteenth, to Hollywood weepies, expressionistart, and pop music in the twentieth century. Weeping Britannia is simultaneously a museum of tears and a philosophical handbook, using history to shed new light on the changing nature of Britishness over time, as well as the ever-shifting ways in which we express and understand our emotional lives. The story that emerges is one in which apreviously rich religious and cultural history of producing and interpreting tears was almost completely erased by the rise of a stoical and repressed British empire in the late nineteenth century. Those forgotten philosophies of tears and feeling can now be rediscovered. In the process, readersmight perhaps come to view their own tears in a different light, as something more than mere emotional incontinence.

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From the Publisher

There is a persistent myth about the British: that we are a nation of stoics, with stiff upper lips, repressed emotions, and inactive lachrymal glands. Weeping Britannia - the first history of crying in Britain - comprehensively debunks this myth. Far from being a persistent element in the "national character", the notion of the Britis...

Thomas Dixon is a historian of emotions, philosophy, science, and religion at Queen Mary University of London, where he directs the Centre for the History of the Emotions. A regular contributor to radio and television programmes as an academic consultant, interviewee, and presenter, he was the consultant for Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Li...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.21 × 6.02 × 0.98 inPublished:October 1, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199676054

ISBN - 13:9780199676057

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Table of Contents

Introduction: I Am a RockPART I: PIETY1. Looking for Margery2. Marie Magdalen's Funeral Teares3. Titus Andronicus: Ha, Ha, Ha!4. The Actor, the Witch, and the PuritanPART II: ENTHUSIASM5. Stop, Gabriel!6. Four Hundred Pounds to Cry7. The Man of Feeling8. The French RevolutionPART III: PATHOS9. The Sanity of George III10. Strange Blessing on the Nation11. Little Nell Without Laughing12. Damp JusticePART IV: RESTRAINT13. Old Ladies and Other Animals14. The 'If' Upper Lip15. Patriotism is Not Enough16. Thank-You for Coming Back to MePART V: FEELINGS17. Grief Observed18. Ha'way the Lads!19. The Thatcher Tears20. Sensibility RegainedConclusion: I Am the SeaNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Please stop crying. Hooray! There's finally a book telling us why we're all at it non-stop - peppered with fascinating facts about the nation's biggest public boo-hooers." --Jo Brand