Billy Bragg (3 stars)

The Progressive Patriot (Bantam)

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SOCIAL HISTORY

Billy Bragg has been so outspoken over the years that it comes as a surprise that this is his first ever book. Conceived as a reaction to the rise of the BNP in his hometown of Barking and the 7 July bombings, this is a heartfelt yet considered investigation of identity and what it means to be English in the modern world. Bragg’s well-known left leanings unsurprisingly permeate the book, but it is open-minded and intelligent in its advocacy of tolerance and diversity.

Mixing personal details with history and politics, Bragg tackles the tricky balance of patriotism versus multiculturalism and tries to extrapolate from his own experience and the history of his family and home into wider society. He doesn’t always quite make that jump successfully, but The Progressive Patriot is still an incredibly thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the question of national identity in an ever-changing world.

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