London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

A Review of The Pocket Book of Patriotism - Part Two

27/06/2005, By David McIntosh

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 22840 votes

I spent part of a morning on the phone with Mr. Courtauld, author of The Pocket Book of Patriotism which to date has sold somewhere around 180,000 copies, 20,000 of them in the United States and he told the story of the train trip that made him decide something needed to be done. “The story behind it is very simple. I was sitting on a train and a little boy got on the train and a sweet little old granny said ‘Would little Lord Nelson like to sit with my friends? And he said ‘who’s Nelson?” Then he said ‘oh, I know, the guy on Star Trek.’

I was so mortified by this and there were actually six children sitting in a group, this was Christmas Eve year before last and obviously so mortified that I went home and told my boys. I’ve got three boys and they said daddy if you’re so clever when did the Cross of St. George become our national flag?”

From there, said Courtauld, he and his sons sat down “as a family over the next five days and produced a little history chart which we pinned up in the loo and over the next couple of months everyone who came to the house and used the loo asked me for a photocopy of the history chart.” Pretty soon he had filled requests for 118 of the charts and it was about that time he though that the history chart on the wall of the bathroom just might have the makings of a book.

But instead of being greet with enthusiasm by publishers Courtauld found instead the cold shoulder with at least seven publishing houses expressing the opinion by his book was politically incorrect and not in keeping with the transnational progressive mentality currently in vogue with the chattering classes and those trendy sorts who imagine themselves style setters.

“All the publishers,” according to Courtauld, “said - well patriotism is an obsolete concept and this is dangerous, and no one is interested in England anymore and it’ll never sell and forget it, blah, blah, blah and change it. They were very offended by the idea of including the ten commandments, which I find very offensive.”

Cross of St George

Undaunted by the reactions of publishers Courtauld that he would become a publisher and bring out his book at his own expense. The first printing was for 10,000 copies and in the first two days he had sold 3500 books. By the end of the first week the number of orders stood at 37,500 and at the end of six weeks 167,000 copies of The Pocket Book of Patriotism had been sold. So much for the publishers who said that patriotism and love of country was an outdated concept.

Within a short time The Pocket Book of Patriotism had become the publishing phenomenon of the year in Britain and sparked a public debate on the importance of patriotism. According to Courtauld sales have been helped both by those who share his point of view as well as those who don’t.

“I’m sure that the vast majority of sales have been stimulated by the positive and negative press its received. I was very lucky. I had a wonderful write-up in The Daily Mail which said that every child in Britain should have this. I had a wonderful article in The Times as well as The Telegraph and a wonderful article in The Independent and funny enough a wonderful article in The Mirror, which is a left-wing tabloid. Tony Parsons is an author and he said ‘I read George Courtauld’s book with tears in my eyes. Every child should have one.’

The Guardian, which is the left-wing newspaper, they had a leader saying the book is toff’s stories with this monocular, 1950's aristocratic vision of Britain is an absolute disaster or something like that. And that day we rose to the bestseller slot in the Labour Party shop even though all the Guardian readers should have theoretically agreed with the leader, thousands of them went out and bought the book.”

According to Courtauld the important thing is to keep everything in prospective. He says that while he is a great believer in the value and need for patriotism he also thinks its important that people not misunderstand or misconstrue the reasons he thinks it is important that one have feelings for his or her own country.

“I’ve been on the television and on the wireless talking about this thing and people have said you obviously hate all foreigners to classify yourself as a patriot. But the truth of the matter, as far as I can see it, the alternative to being a patriot is hating your country and that’s called a police state.”

In fact, say Courtauld, a knowledge of British serves as a reminder that Britain in the past has welcomed those who have fled oppression abroad, the Courtauld family for example. The first Courtaulds who came to British shores some 300 years ago were French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. And George Courtauld is still very aware that in modern times the United Kingdom has opened it doors to those seeking a freer place to call home.

“You see the funny old thing,” Courtauld told me, “ is that really all it is one father’s take on British history and I don’t pretend to be an academic or a scholar or anything else. My wife and I concluded that we had spent 21 nights in a row in tears on the telephone because a sweet little old granny would ring up and share the speeches of Churchill with my children or say, you know, I escaped from Nazi Germany in 1939 and came to this country and re-reading the quotes in your book that’s why I came here and my children haven’t been taught this in school.” (to be completed next month)

David McIntosh

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