Without history, democracy is dumb…

The discussion of history and its importance continues apace here in UK-land.  And the latest journalist/historian to enter the lists is none other than Simon Jenkins. 

Of course, much of the interest and outrage over the issue stems from the last government’s proposal to wholly abandon the teaching of history as a subject, and instead combine it with geography, and call the hybrid morass, humanities.  And whilst this act of intellectual philistinism never came to pass–thank heavens!–there are still weekly reports that history teaching is often and usually sacrificed by teachers in primary schools who find the curriculum already too full–so they just don’t teach it, or they teach it no more than an hour per week…

(Draw your own conclusions on how effective this is…And you in the back, those high-pitched “whats?” you’ve been uttering with ever increasing frequency can only be heard by the dog.)

Now, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Simon Jenkins’s articulate and well-presented rant, which is also an advert for his new book on the subject of English history. 

Behold his gambit:  “Damn the national curriculum.  First teach history.  Continue reading

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Nationalism or honest history…

The teaching of history to children often or usually involves blaming all or most of one event on one person.  This is done in the name of simplifying things so that they’re easily understandable.  For American children, one of those figures is George III.

His truculent and tyrannical behaviour is credited with causing the American Revolution and losing for Great Britain her prosperous American colonies.

He was used as a figure of hate at the time too–so perhaps this isn’t surprising.

And all sorts of stories are trotted out in support of this theory, and no doubt they will go on being trotted out for decades to come.  Proof of his incalculable stupidity is found in his not learning to read until he was 16, for example.

Yet, (and I apologise if this comes as a rude shock to anyone) history is rarely so simple as to be entirely the making of one man.  Even a king.

And in George III’s case, although I was raised and taught to hold him in contempt, I found, when confronted by some facts that I had to rethink my conclusions and abandon my happy nationalist view of the man.  Continue reading