Episode Info

In the second part of his series about British emotion and identity, Ian Hislop argues that we have the Victorians to thank for making the stiff upper lip a genuinely national characteristic. He also shows how the belief became pervasive that suffering in silence was a service to society. Ian begins by returning to his own boarding school, Ardingly College in Sussex, which he admits forged his own character. He explores how the English public school system instilled a powerful ideology, preparing boys to run both the country and the fast expanding Empire. Ian also suggests that it was the Crimean War which heralded the democratisation of the stiff upper lip. The valour of ordinary privates was admired by all and for the first time they became national heroes - the new Victoria Cross was the first honour for which all ranks were eligible. Yet by the early 20th century some intellectuals, radicals and aesthetes began to equate the stiff upper lip with hypocrisy and repression.

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