British superiority

ImagesMy post about the prodigiously superior drinking habits of the British over the Americans has unleashed quite a stink on Justin Webb's BBC blog about America. But apart from yobbishness, at what do the British clearly beat the Americans?

Certainly not sports or business or technology or engineering change or being cheerful or over-eating or self-reflection.

As the London Times' Juliet Gardiner suggests, Britain's greatest export to America are the country's historians. Imported British historians like Peter Brown, Simon Schama, Linda Colley and Mark Mazower are unmatched in an America which is rich in futurists, but whose historians are generally either overly academic or saccarine. Even the best historians of America are British -- the general narratives by Paul Johnson (A History of the American People) and Hugh Brogan (The Penguin History of the USA) being much more readable and worldly than anything that the natives have written.

Not only are the British are good at looking backwards, but they also excel in polishing up the past and selling it to readers. So, given the general nastiness of British life now, what local historians owe us is a compelling narrative of the country's yobbishness. How and why has Britain been transformed into a country of louts? In what year did it all originate? And who is the patron saint of British bad behaviour?

Perhaps such a book already exists. Anyone know of a good history of the English yob?