Exotic England

The Making of a Curious Nation

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Published: 7 April 2016
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781846274206


England may be a small country on a small island, but its inhabitants have always had a boundless curiosity about the world beyond their shoreline. From the nation's modern origins in the Renaissance, travellers have eagerly roamed the globe and been enticed by the diversity and richness of other civilizations. And while this appetite for adventure has often been tainted by aggression or exploitation, the English have also carried within them a capacity to soak up new experiences and ideas and to weave them into every aspect of life back home, from language and literature to customs and culture. Here we trace this golden thread of otherness through five centuries of English history to reveal how it has shaped the buildings, flavoured the food, powered the economy, and created a truly diverse society.

Today, when England is no longer synonymous with Britain and the English ask themselves who they are, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown paints a sumptuous and illuminating portrait of who they have been and brings a fresh, invigorating perspective on what 'Englishness' really means.

About the author

Image of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a leading commentator on race, multiculturalism and human rights, writing for the Independent and Guardian and appearing regularly on TV and radio. She has won many journalism awards, including the Orwell Prize in 2002. She is also the author of No Place Like Home (1995) and the IPPR report True Colours, on public attitudes to multiculturalism. More about the author


‘[Exotic England] reads like Alibhai-Brown's love letter to a partner of more than 40 years, whose faults she knows intimately, yet whom she adores nonetheless... [She] brings a terrific sense of purpose to the book... You can almost hear her talking you through her discoveries’ Maya Jasanoff



‘[A] cri de coeur for a longed-for, much-needed, intelligent debate on the current state of multicultural England... For this reason alone, such a brave and optimistic book, with its effervescent style, must be celebrated’

‘[A] rich account of England past and present... Decisive and penetrating’ Vanessa Berridge

Witty, wise and wonderful... a timely and big-hearted account of cultural crossover, and of how it unites rather than separates us, in these fractured times. I loved this book’ Katie Hickman

‘A useful guide to the vagaries of twenty-first-century Britain’ Ian Thomson

‘Alibhai-Brown is one of our best wielders of English words and sharpest observers of English life. Exotic England brings to life undervalued parts of England's essence - mutability, dynamism, diversity - and makes me think that many of the people the English call "immigrants" might be reclassified as "homecomers"... [Alibhai-Brown's] passion for the country she describes is irrepressible Felipe Fernández-Armesto

‘At a time when diversity, migration and identity are such hot topics, [Alibhai-Brown] offers a vibrant and rounded portrait of the country’ Julia Richardson

‘I loved the broad-mindedness of this book and the way that it tells the history of all of us Englanders who feel a visceral connection to exotic parts of the world through the history of Empire and our ancestors or our own travels. Thanks are due to Alibhai-Brown for weaving the threads that show there are more of us like this than we think - showing us a different kind of "people who have not spoken yet"’ Eleanor Mills, Editorial Director

‘Like a love letter to a partner of more than 40 years, whose flaws she knows, yet whom she adores nonetheless’ Maya Jasanoff

‘So much to savour in this dazzling, impeccably researched and continually eye opening book, our hidden braided histories brought beautifully to life’ Meera Syal

‘Witty, bold, and full of surprises, Exotic England is a must-read for anyone concerned about who the English (think they) are today’ Gerald MacLean, Professor Emeritus, University of Exeter

‘Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes compellingly and passionately, challenges, takes risks. This book does all that. The author, a rebellious outsider, tells the untold stories of England, takes on Ukip and grows to love the country she now lives in’ Iain Dale, radio presenter, blogger and publisher

Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts