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How did Englishness become so associated with elaborate politeness? How have 'good' and 'bad' manners changed over time? And why are the English so keen to apologize for things they haven't done, but unwilling to apologize for what they have done? Drawing on the insights of such astute observers as Lord Chesterfield, Pepys and Austen, Hitchings surveys the history of decorous behaviour, from the Middle Ages to ASBOs and online etiquette.