Sarah Lyall grew up in New York City and is now London correspondent for the New York Times. She lives there with her husband, the writer Robert McCrum, and their two daughters. Her first book was entitled The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British.
Lyall: Well, I think the parallels with America are more like the Roman Empire, but that was way long ago. You know, the thing about the Brits is they had this huge empire and they had a lot of land all over the world, and the end of their empire is when they had to give it up, you know, a lot… Between the wars and then after World War 2, they gave up the rest of it. And they’re just this tiny little place, tiny, tiny little place, and they gave up a lot of their economic power when they gave up those places. The American empire, such as it is, isn’t a land empire. It’s not like it owns, you know, half of the world. It’s more, you know, how it manifest its power, its economic empire. It’s an influence empire. And so it’s, I’m not quite sure it’s the same. And also, Britain, you know, it always had a strange attitude towards its empire. It felt entitled, but it also felt this kind of that it wasn’t allowed to be proud of itself, you know. Brits don’t like to boast. They feel that their kind of greatness is innate and doesn’t have to be discussed, whereas Americans actually feel entitled and they feel they should talk about how great they are, and, I think, you know, to the extent our empire is ending and will eventually end here. It’s going to be devastating for the American sense of themselves, whereas the British, you know, they’ve been trying to work that out for a long time now.