Q. Why do you drive on the left side of the road? A. In the violent Middle Ages you kept to the left for the simple reason that you never knew who you'd meet on your travels. You made sure that a stranger passed on the right so you could go for your sword in case he proved unfriendly.
This witty and accessible book explains how our national characteristics - our sense of humour, our hobbies, our favourite foods and our behaviour with the opposite sex - are all defined by our nation's extraordinary geography, geology, climate and weather.
In How England Made the English you will learn how our climate would be as cold as Siberia without the Gulf Stream; why today's cramped train seats are exactly the same size as Roman chariots; why the Midlands became the home of the British curry. It identifies the materials that make England, too: the faint pink Aberdeen granite of kerbstones; that precise English mix of air temperature, smell and light that hits you the moment you touch down at Heathrow. (hb)