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

9:00pm Tuesday 9 October on BBC TWO

In the second part of his new series, Ian Hislop argues that we have the Victorians to thank for making the Stiff Upper Lip a truly national characteristic.

He resurrects the stories of remarkable – some might say bonkers – national heroes, like Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the Channel. But he also shows how suffering in silence came to be seen as a service to society and how questions began to be asked about a homogenised, quasi-industrial approach to character building.

Along the way, Ian returns to his own character-building boarding school, Ardingly College in Sussex, introduces us to the weeping policeman ‘Robert Emotional’, explains the dark context to Charles Darwin’s observation ‘Englishmen rarely cry’ and talks to MP Rory Stewart about how the Stiff Upper Lip helped him as a deputy governor in Iraq.

Ian concludes on the battlefields of the Somme, where one officer literally treated war as a game, using football to motivate his men to go over the top. Ultimately, Ian argues, the Victorian ideal of reticent stoicism shot through with imperial swagger could not survive the mud of Flanders. Yet it was precisely those values which had sustained the Empire and persuaded so many to endure the First World War’s horrors.

Ep 2/3

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