Is it because we are islanders? Or something to do with the residue of empire? Or something else altogether?
For whatever reason, we in England do sometimes seem to find operating in the framework of international institutions unduly taxing; international institutions that we do not control, at any rate.
This was underlined by the Leave majority in last week’s European Union (EU) referendum, a result that has dominated the national discourse ever since.
In the context of sport, football provides probably the most obvious example of our reluctance to compromise our independence in the pursuit of better international understanding.
FIFA, the global governing body, was founded in 1904; yet over its first four decades, England, in the shape of the Football Association (FA), spent more time out of the new organisation than in.
It joined in 1906, the same year that Englishman Daniel Woolfall was elected FIFA President, left in 1920, rejoined in 1924, re-exited in 1928 and rejoined again, so far for good, in 1946.
No England team entered the World Cup until 1950, 20 years after the inaugural competition, whereupon, though winning their first World Cup match, the side proceeded to lose to the United States in perhaps the only international reverse it has suffered more embarrassing than the Euro 2016 defeat by Iceland on Monday (June 27).
England was late out of the blocks for the European Cup/Champions League too: Chelsea were barred from competing in the inaugural competition in 1955-56 and replaced by Gwardia Warsaw; the following season Manchester United did enter, thumping Anderlecht 10-0 en route to the semi-finals.
It has been smoother sailing with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Two Englishmen - Charles Herbert (born in India) and the second Baron Ampthill (born in Rome) - were among the 15 IOC members appointed in 1894.
Then again, the convention has it that IOC members represent the Movement in their respective countries - and not the other way around.
The English, moreover, had every reason to feel comfortable with the IOC’s governance apparatus since, as Baron Pierre de Coubertin explained, "The Committee was to be a self-recruiting body, with the same type of management structure as that for the Henley Regatta."
The apotheosis of England’s relationship with the Olympic Movement came 118 years after de Coubertin’s IOC was created, at the highly successful London 2012 Games.
As Organising Committee chairman Sebastian Coe said at the Closing Ceremony what must seem to him light years ago, "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."
Two things about this:
1) The temptation, in the present context, is to see those near perfectly-realised Olympics and Paralympics as an illustration of what England/Great Britain is capable of when left more or less to its own devices by multinational institutions such as the IOC.
2) While I remember sequences about cricket, the industrial revolution, the National Health Service and, of course, James Bond, a fictional character, in the extravagant, stunning Opening Ceremony, I don’t remember too much in this tableau - presumably, of what the London establishment most wished to present to one of the biggest live TV audiences ever assembled - about the EU’s contribution to the nation’s story.
But of course, London could not have won what remains the fiercest bid battle in Olympic history had it not taken the trouble to develop a deep understanding of the interlocking networks that make the IOC, and all the international sports bodies that depend on it, tick.
I well remember how in 2001, when it looked like British officialdom was not inclined to put in the spadework to make an effective bid possible, I was taken aside at an IOC Session by a top British IOC executive and spoon-fed the message, very much on the record, that if the country didn’t get its act together, London could forget about the 2012 Games.
"Where was the senior British Government observer here?" the executive - Michael Payne, then IOC marketing director - asked rhetorically.
At the time - much as in other spheres of life, whether from lack of interest, or instinctive insularity or a sense of resignation or whatever - Britain appeared well on its way to marginalisation in a world it once dominated.
Since then, the impetus injected by that London 2012 process has inspired a dramatic reversal of this trend.
More and more of the top posts in international sport are being taken by Britons.
And while the rise to prominence of this new wave of administrators has coincided with exposure of the governance and other shortcomings of organisations now subject to public scrutiny more intense than they have previously experienced, my compatriots will at least be in the thick of it, playing leadership roles in the construction of better systems.
I am not hugely patriotic; I don’t jump for joy each time another Brit lands a big job in international sports administration.
But I do feel strongly that, in a world which, like it or not, is ever more inextricably interconnected, the rational response to rectifying imperfect systems is to engage and make a contribution to thrashing out a better approach, rather than retreating back to our own private parlours.
Is it too late to hope that the attitude recently adopted to great effect by British sport may yet set a template for our approach to solving graver problems?