Inglorious Isolation: A European's History Of Britain

Episodes

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France20160405

France20160405

French journalist Catherine Guilyardi presents her thoughtful take on the history of Britain from her French perspective. It's the story of two countries who like to see themselves as exceptional but find common ground in this exceptionality. The interplay between Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle speaks to this long-standing relationship between old rivals - one that oscillates between admiration and irritation.

With contributions from historian Professor Eugenio Biagini from the University of Cambridge and French author and journalist Agnès Poirier, Catherine presents a view of the relationship between these pragmatic isolationists who are more than happy to go it alone but ready to build bridges, or tunnels, when it serves their interests.

Catherine Guilyardi is a French journalist and author who lives in both Paris and London.

Across this series, five mainland Europeans give their take on Britain's historical relationship with their home country - the historical moments and popular culture that have created the image of the Brit in the mind of continental Europeans.

The notion of Britain being separated in splendid isolation from the continent is fundamental to many of the historical misunderstandings and strains on the relationship with Europe. Yet as frequently as the British appear to be the haughty thorn in Europe's side, our authors find moments of intertwined history that have drawn the island closer to the mainland - from how the Brits live to how they dress and their ability to get a good cup of coffee.

Each author reflects on the moments in their own lives that have drawn them to Britain and Britishness - The Beatles, psychologist Hans-Jürgen Eysenck, or the call of Aberdeen from the most westerly part of Denmark.

Producer: Katherine Godfrey

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Germany20160406

Germany20160406

Developmental psychiatrist Uta Frith presents her take on the history of Britain - from a German perspective in which scientific and intellectual history between the two nations looms large.

In her own career, she was drawn to the Institute of Psychiatry in London by the presence of German-British psychologist Hans-Jürgen Eysenck, and the close academic connection between nations is exemplified by the figure of Lord Dahrendorf, the German-born political scientist who had the rare distinction of belonging to both the German and British parliaments.

But, as Uta and contributors explore, this relationship has historically become strained when the fundamental difference between the British and the German political mindset comes into play. As Winston Churchill and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer grappled with what Europe meant in the wake of the devastation of World War II, the British isolationist perspective with a pragmatic rather than ideological commitment to the European Community rubbed up against Germany's position at the heart of Europe.

With contributions from German journalist and historian Thomas Kielinger; Daniel Kehlmann, international bestselling author of Measuring the World; and historian Professor Eugenio Biagini from the University of Cambridge.

Across this series, five mainland Europeans give their take on Britain's historical relationship with their home country - the historical moments and popular culture that have created the image of the Brit in the mind of continental Europeans. Dame Uta Frith is a German-born scientist, currently working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, and has pioneered research into autism and dyslexia.

Producer: Katherine Godfrey

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Italy20160404

Italy20160404

Italian architect Francesco da Mosto presents a humorous and thoughtful take on the history of Britain from his Italian perspective.

From the roots of the British stiff upper lip found in Roman stoicism, to the Venetian skies of a Canaletto painting that seem to evoke those he saw during his time in Britain, and seeking out a Rolling Stones record sung in Italian in London's Portobello market - a modern nod to the century's old cultural connection between Britain and Italy.

With contributions from historian Professor Eugenio Biagini from the University of Cambridge, Dr Lucia Rinaldi from the Italian department of University College London, and Mariano Rubinacci the head of the second generation of tailors who have made their mark on British and Italian fashion.

Across this series, five mainland Europeans give their take on Britain's historical relationship with their home country - the historical moments and popular culture that have created the image of the Brit in the mind of continental Europeans.

The notion of Britain being separated in splendid isolation from the continent is fundamental to many of the historical misunderstandings and strains on the relationship with Europe. Yet as frequently as the British appear to be the haughty thorn in Europe's side, our authors find moments of intertwined history that have drawn the island closer to the mainland - from how the Brits live to how they dress and their ability to get a good cup of coffee.

Each author reflects on the moments in their own lives that have drawn them to Britain and Britishness - The Beatles, psychologist Hans-Jürgen Eysenck, or the call of Aberdeen from the most westerly part of Denmark.

Producer: Katherine Godfrey

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Scandinavia20160408

Scandinavia20160408

Danish fiction author Dorthe Nors casts her eye across the North Sea towards Aberdeen - and across the centuries - to consider the wars fought and connections forged between the Scandinavian countries and Britain.

She reflects on the island mentality from a different perspective living as she does in Jutland, which shares its borders with Germany, but also being from a region with a strong island sensibility - "the continent" has always been something that Swedes, Norwegians and the rest of Denmark cross the water to get to, just like the British.

But it hasn't always been a comfortable relationship with Britain - the close cultural connection, perhaps most strongly felt in Norway, threatened to be severed by widespread protests at Margaret Thatcher's visit to Oslo.

Dorthe Nors is the acclaimed author of fiction including Minna Needs Rehearsal Space and the short story collection Karate Chop. Yes, she is a Danish writer with a darkness to her fiction but, in this programme, she considers how British Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle are the grandparents of Nordic noir.

With contributions from Øivind Bratberg, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Oslo, and Magnus Englund, co-founder of the British retailer of Scandinavian design Skandium and Director of the Isokon Gallery Trust.

Across this series, five mainland Europeans give their take on Britain's historical relationship with their home country - the historical moments and popular culture that have created the image of the Brit in the mind of continental Europeans.

Producer: Katherine Godfrey

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Spain20160407

Spain20160407

Mexico-born author Laia Jufresa, reflects on her experience of being a 'global European' and the connection between Spanish and British history that runs through her heritage.

She grew up in Mexico, studied in Paris and lived in Spain - but her dual citizenship comes from her grandfather's experience in the Spanish Civil War when he became a refugee in Mexico. Here she reflects on the feeling of being at home in Europe - but not quite - and how the somewhat alien nature of working in the English language informs her writing style and career, which began when she would eagerly await deliveries of Roald Dahl books as a child.

The programme also explores the allure of swinging London for a young British woman, the relief at finally finding a good cup of coffee as Britain developed a Latin cafe culture, and how the Brit image was transformed from the English gent to the lager lout and the Costa del Crime became a destination.

With contributions from historian Dr Graciela Iglesias Rogers from the University of Oxford and the University of Winchester, and Spanish author Lala Isla.

Across this series, five mainland Europeans give their take on Britain's historical relationship with their home country - the historical moments and popular culture that have created the image of the Brit in the mind of continental Europeans. Laia Jufresa is the critically acclaimed author of Umami. She was a writer in residence at Hay Festival 2015.

Producer: Katherine Godfrey

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.