"This book is an account of Britain and British life specially written for the Russian reader. In 1991 I wrote the first version of Understanding Britain for readers in the Soviet Union who were, as was clear at the time, on the brink of jumping into a very different world from the one that they had known. That book was intended to help them understand the very strangeness of 'the West' about which there were so many myths in Russia, and to explain to them some characteristics of British life in particular. It was revised in 1994 and again in 1995, but much of the ex-Soviet flavour remained.
Much has changed in both our countries since then. My responses to Russia in the early nineteen-nineties have been out-of-date for years, and even stable Britain is preoccupied with an unexpectedly different range of problems from those that were discussed so avidly nearly twenty years ago. Consequently, Understanding Britain has not been reprinted since 2004 during which time I have been searching for ways of revising it for a new edition. In the event I found that about four-fifths of the text had to be completely rewritten. Basically this is a new book, although it has many echoes and reminders of Understanding Britain for those who are familiar with that text.
I have therefore decided to call it Understanding Britain Today. 'Today' is 2009 but most of the material I expect to remain valid for many years. No doubt my version will be inadequate by 2020, but by that time someone else can take over the task."