I’ve just finished reading the excellent Lives of the Engineers by Samuel Smiles. It is well worth a read and is available for free on many ereaders as well as Project Gutenberg. This quote from Chapter XII in particular stood out as a wonderful definition of the English as a people:
The English people, though they may be defective in their capacity for organization, are strong in individualism; and not improbably their admirable qualities in the latter respect detract from their efficiency in the former. Thus, in all times, their greatest enterprises have not been planned by officialism and carried out upon any regular system, but have sprung, like their constitution, their laws, and their entire industrial arrangements, from the force of circumstances and the individual energies of the people.