Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Lip - An Emotional History of Britain

Series 1 - 1. Emergence

Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

Pour a glass of Madeira and settle in for one of Ian Hislop’s witty strolls through history. Hislop is brilliant at this stuff and his latest theme is a good one: how our national character evolved from Tudor exuberance to Victorian reserve.

These long-term trends in our emotional lives are fascinating: in the 18th century displays of emotion were apparently a badge of pride. Then the horrors of the French Revolution prompted a national lip-stiffening, as embodied in the cool figure of the Duke of Wellington. Hislop brings us wonderful passages from the likes of James Boswell and Jane Austen, as well as the tale of the British ambassador to Paris who thought the answer to the French Revolution was obvious: introduce them to cricket.

About this programme

1/3. The broadcaster explores how the British have expressed their feelings throughout history, and considers the ways in which the nation has been shaped by its people's relationship with their emotions. He begins by looking back at 19th-century Britain, where he believes the idea of a `stiff upper lip' first came to prominence, and explores the attitudes of figures including James Boswell and Mary Wollstonecraft to sentiment and rationality. He also contrasts the characters of Admiral Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, plays cricket on the Champs-Elysees, and reveals why the bulldog became a national symbol.

Cast and crew


Ian Hislop


Deborah Lee
Executive Producer
Archie Baron
Deborah Lee