A revelatory and compelling anthology which redefines our notion of "English Literature." To acknowledge Britain's long history of immigration is to question many people's understanding of "Britishness." But as soon as you define yourself as "British," you participate in a long tradition of cultural exchange and ethnic and linguistic plurality—as might be expected from a nation that once claimed to rule most of the known world. This anthology begins over two hundred years ago, with black writers like Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano, who had direct experience of the slave trade, grappling not only with the difficulties of belonging but also with a new language.
After these came writers who were born in the colonies—penetrating, if not altogether contented, observers of Britain, a group including William Thackeray, Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell. Later, the voices of the colonial subjects themselves were heard, as represented here by Caribbean migrants like the celebrated C. L. R. James. In more recent years, the legacy of empire has produced writing by the descendants of the colonizers (Jean Rhys, Doris Lessing, Penelope Lively and William Boyd, among others) and of the colonized, whose work demonstrates both attachment and detachment, from V. S. Naipaul's elegant yet barbed tribute to England, The Enigma of Arrival, to the more trenchant verses of Linton Kwesi Johnson's Inglan is a Bitch.
Alongside these are writers such as T. S. Eliot, George Szirtes and Kazuo Ishiguro, whose work exhibits and often microscopic concern with the nature of Britishness; and Katherine Mansfield, Peter Porter and Christopher Hope, who, armed with the English language, have appropriated the cosmopolitan world by moving to its literary centre.