The History Kids

13 December 2012

3:28 PM

13 December 2012

3:28 PM

Martin Kettle has a column in today’s Guardian lamenting the inadequacy of the teaching of English history in schools today. He suggests that “the English people are increasingly cut off from their own history.” Is this so? Possibly! But then he makes the mistake of presuming the English are unusually unfortunate in this respect. To wit:

It is a fair bet that today’s young Scots know more about Scotland’s history, today’s young Welsh more about Wales, and today’s young Irish more about Ireland than today’s young English know about England. In fact the nature of their own historical experiences may mean that the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish also know more about England’s history than the English do.

I suspect most of this is pretty unlikely. History is no more a compulsory subject in Scotland than it is in England and there is little consensus on what quantity of Scottish history the syllabus should contain. The Wars of Independence are a safe subject because everyone can agree about them (hint: the Good Guys win). But much of the rest of the time there’s but a brief nod to the usual suspects (Mary Queen of Scots, 1707, Bonnie Prince Charlie) before rushing to the “easier” or “more relevant” post-Victorian social history.

That said, history is an unusual subject and devising a coherent curriculum that gives most children a useful grounding while also allowing for a deeper engagement – whether thematic or chronological – at the higher levels of study is a damn difficult task. And not just because determining which areas should be studied is, invariably, a political choice. There is also the problem that there’s so much history.

Then again, I probably have an atypical perspective on all this. I was given an English education in Scotland. I did GCSEs and A-Levels rather than Scottish exams. Indeed from the age of 13 I learned no Scottish history at all. And almost no British history either.

GCSE took in the causes of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and, if I remember rightly, the Wars of the Roses. Some attention was also devoted to parliamentary and social history from the Second Reform Act (1867) to the establishment of the Welfare State.


A-level was a four-part problem. An outline course on English history from Henry VII to Elizabeth I coupled with an outline of european history covering much the same timescale and thus, of course, the birth of the modern nation state. The Nazis, inevitably, formed a separate “special subject” and the course was completed by an extended (4,000) word essay on a topic of our choice. (I think I did mine on the development of German nationalist thought in the 19th century. That was a pretty lazy option, frankly.)

None of this was terrible and I was fortunate to have some able teachers. But, though your experience may of course differ, mine did not offer a terribly coherent approach to English, far less British, history. Indeed, the making of Britain did not feature at all.

This is not one of those areas in which there is an obviously “right” answer or approach. A weary chronological slog through the centuries is not necessarily the most appropriate syllabus either. At the same time, one would like to think there could be some attempt to forge a reasonably coherent narrative.

Kettle suggests that the English learn very little English history. He may be correct. But I fancy they still learn very little British history either. There is nothing wrong with studying Nazi Germany (indeed it’s probably important children learn something about it). Nor is it regrettable that many children now also learn something about the history of the United States.

Nevertheless, something is missing. I suspect some courses do feature the making of Britain prominently but I also hazard that these are less popular options than many of the others available to teachers and, in the end, pupils. To a degree that is understandable: the 17th century is a devilishly complicated business in which the “narrative” is not always clear.

Nevertheless I can’t help but feel pupils in both the Scottish or English systems would be well-served by outline courses covering the period 1603-1832. The Wars of Independence, the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation are each important matters but it is curious, surely, that relatively few children actually study the history of the United Kingdom?

Nor is it dull stuff! The English Civil War – or, more properly, the War of the Three Kingdoms – is but a part of it. There’s the development of the modern political state, the rise of parliament, the beginnings of Empire (from America to India) plus, of course, the struggle with France. And the Act of Union! Add the Enlightenment and revolutions in science, industry, agriculture and trade and you have the makings of a pretty spiffing set of stories. And that’s before you even consider domestic agitation leading to the Great Reform Act.

Too much, perhaps, for everything to be covered (even at A-level or Higher) but there’s ample room on this map for teachers to plot their own course and lay their own emphasis where they see fit (a Scottish-based approach, for instance, would necessarily be different from an English-centred tack).

Perhaps, mind you, I’m prejudiced in favour of this kind of course precisely because it was not what I studied at school. Paths not trod are often more attractive than those we actually took way back in the day. Even so, the 17th and 18th centuries were the birth and making of modern Britain. It seems odd that even when given the opportunity to study these times so few pupils, be they north or south of the Tweed, actually do so.

So, two questions for you all: what history did you study at school and what history would you like your kids to learn?

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786


  • peter

    i think this article says all i need to know about, massie. an apologists

  • Sarah

    I can’t comment on Welsh or Irish teaching, but he’s right about Scottish and English.

  • mumble

    “The Wars of Independence”? What, all of them?

  • Andrew Smith

    Having studied a range of “themes in world history” (Castles, Islam, the Romans, WWI and WWII, the history of medicine, Irish history) and then ‘A’ levels covering modern Europe (and the Nazis), I was heartily greatful upon going up to university to be able to study a chronological account of Modern British history and the history of the Empire. Medieval Britain would have been a possibility had I not been so closed-minded.

    My History teachers at school were uniformly brilliant, but failed
    entirely to impart any idea of what England had been and how it arrived
    at its present form. Which is what school teachers should actually be doing.

    German, Italian and French school pupils all learn about the history of their land. Why not ours? My schooling enabled me to talk at great depth with French, Italian and German exchange students about “their” past. Yet I was able to tell them very little about “mine.” That is not what international exchange should be about.

  • DGS

    My secondary school history courses (Standard Grade through to SYS) were overwhelmingly concentrated around subject matter post 1815. We got blocks on Weimar Germany, the causes of WW1, the Russian Revolution, Germany under Bismarck, British social-political history and 19th century grand diplomacy. The grand sweep was absent. Scottish history was confined to Primary School, where we got the Robert The Bruce, the Jacobites, and a sort of teatowel survey of Great Caledonians.

    When I went on to study history at University, I did notice the gaps – I remember feeling leagues behind A level students in the first year when it came to some of the subject matter, but I never felt the skills hadn’t been taught.

    As for how it should be – everyone needs the grand sweep, which means giving it to kids before courses become optional in S3. And why not? Even if all that sticks is a few images (pointy-shoed peasants, Charles on the scaffold, Napoleon) and a sense for what comes after what, primary school and early secondary school kids should be given a framework to slot things into in later life, when relevance becomes apparent and interest is often stronger.

    I’m reminded of The History Boys – “May I speak frankly sir? History… it’s just one f###ing thing after another”

  • Lucy Leiderman

    I truly believe a well-rounded knowledge of history begins with interest and immersion, much like learning a language. Forcing history down kids’ throats won’t do anything except for make them detest it, like young Irish pupils detest learning Irish and english Canadians detest learning French. I studied Celtic Studies in Canada because of a true interest in it and can say that I’ve known more about it than any Irish, English or Scottish adult I’ve met. Perhaps I have been wrong, but I always attributed this to a lack of interest rather than a lack of curriculum.

  • Eddie

    Sorry, but you’re wrong on this. History is taught VERY differently in Scotland and England. In the former, nationalistic teachers inculcate their charges with a pride in Scotland (often not Britain, seeing as education passes for propaganda often up there); in the latter, pc race-obsessed teachers tell children that they should be ashamed of their history, that the only people witha culture worth learning about are black and brown immigrant pupils.

    In the political correct multiculti comprehensive mess of the school systm in England, children are taught about these things only: the Tudors, The Nazis, Feminism (women role models), racial history (a slavery guilt trip – despite the fact that England stopoped the slave trade!), and of course Mary ‘mine’s a brandy’ Seacole (an insignificant historical character which kids are told is a hero and rolemodel at ages 7, 11 and 14, in manner than resembles the sort of hero worship of Lenin under communism, or that of Mohammed by Muslims now).

    In Scotland, the history teaching is patriotic – and even nationalistic, with left wing SNP teachers blatantly promoting hatred against the English and a really fake and fabricated Brave Heart Scottish history too (I bet they never teach kids there that Scotland was cobbled together from various tribal regions, or that most symbols of Scottishness were invented by the English Victorians eh or the Borders man Walter Scot?) The Welsh are less nationalistic and chauvinistic than the Scots, but are stil allowed to be proud of their history.

    What kids get in England is ANTI-Patriotism – a sort of diversity-obsessed guilt trip aboiut how awful the English were and are (and I see we are supposed to attribute 100% blame for bad things about Empire to the English, but good things to the Scots and various dark-skinned members of colonised countries). This is not only bias, it is nonsense: The British Empire was the most benevolent in history (compare please to Russian, German, Japanese, African and Asian empires). It created the modern world and saved the world’s arse more then once.

    History at school? Well, it will be hard seeing as most school history teachers see their role NOT as teaching good solid fact-based history – but in brainwashing kids into worshipping at the altar of their new religion called Diversity, with the high priests of political correctness and multiculturalism.

    Also, the psychobabble of feelings has invaded history lessons – with VAK lessons – children are ordered to empathise with histroical figures, to support the ones who are just like us, and to boo the villains who are not (like Florence Nightingale, the racist bitch… and demoted feminist heroine…) And history today in schools and unis has to be all about the little people slaving away at the hearth – it’s an endless egalitarian pity party.

    I’d want my kids at a young age to learn facts – the sheer IGNORANCE of English (and all British) kids about the main dates in our history is astounding. Sad to say, but lots of history teachers will be ignorant too.

    When was the English Civil War, The Great Reform Act, who was Alexis Soyer, who was the first English king, what were the major inventions in England and Britain, why can we say that Britain invented the modern world? That is what should be learnt – dates, facts and knowledge. Then when kids are older they can build on that – but you need that foundation!
    All history teachers trained since the 60s will see this as the wrong approach – more for them the boring waffle of examining sources, saying there is no such thing as an historical fact or truth, and generally being wishy-washy bore-meisters.
    Facts is when dem kids need: KNOWLEDGE about history.
    I have taught many young people from overseas who – to what should be our shame – know way more English and British history than most British adults, let alone kids. Why? because they still have a traditional knowledge-based school education system in most other European countries – we have just aped the identity politics of the USA. Shame. Best learn history outside of school then really. Or – I know – send all history teachers down any remaining coal mines so they can get REALLY empathetic…

  • June

    BBC/Guardian has done more than most to obliterate English history and have set upon a progressive, socialist agenda to demonise anything British. Now they’re lamenting its demise from school curricula! What utter tosh!

  • FF42

    The topics you mentioned – political developments in the 17thC; social and economic change at the turn of the 19thC – are covered by the Higher History curriculum. Standard Grade is a bit Mickey Mouse but that’s as far as many students will take the subject.

    The way history is taught in schools now is hugely different from thirty years ago. There is much more emphasis on going back to the source and the coverage ranges much wider too. On the other hand we are perhaps losing skills in interpreting the data and presenting an argument.

  • Davidh

    “the inadequacy of the teaching of English history in schools today”

    Maybe it was always so? Back in the day, my history teacher copied very neatly from his notebook onto the board. We would copy into our notebooks and there would be regular tests. This was a grammar school and the teacher in question was the head of the history department. The content of the lessons was so memorable, I haven’t a clue now what areas of history were covered. Kings and Queens, perhaps. The bits of history I’ve read since, I’ve actually found very interesting.

    In contrast, I remember very clearly the science experiments we were led through by a very enthusiastic teacher on the road to discovering how everything works – from trees and frogs to molecules and planets. I think experimental science teaching was quite new at that time and many thanks to Mrs Green who is probably no longer with us. David Attenborough also helped.

    I’d like my kids to be taught history in much the same way as I was taught science. A process of discovery that’s clearly related to the world around them. Or maybe an appreciation of history is just something that comes with age and the kids just need to buckle down and learn their Kings and Queens?

  • Noa

    “..from the age of 13 I learned no Scottish history at all. And almost no British history either.”

    Yes, I had already concluded that.

  • Daniel Maris

    I’d particularly recommend to Mr Massie he read up on Vortigern invitation to the Saxons. He seems to have missed that lesson… (see chapters 23 to 26)

    • Ron Todd

      An important part of learning history is a appreciation of the differences in reliability of different parts of the national myth.

      • Daniel Maris

        I am well aware of Gildas’ standing with modern historians. But most modern historians accept the basic truth of those parts of the narrative relating to Gildas’ own lifetime.

    • Baron

      Daniel, the stuff you recommend is near unreadable, the type density sees to that, there’re no dates as anchorage points, no knowable names of Roman Emperors.

      Toynbee, as you well know, disagreed with Gibbons’s take on things on Rome and Christianity (as did and do other historians), the consensus on this island though seems to cluster around a view that within about half a a century after the Romans left for good in 410AD, the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, possibly others began to arrive in rather small numbers, (some 100,000 in total in a century), the number of the indigenous population (mostly remaining Celts) is thought to have numbered between 1.5-4.5mn, and except for few legends of local heroism of the Arthurian sort, the locals offered little resistance (your Vortigen invitation dates from the 1st half of the 5th century, the Emperor died 450AD), Roman built houses were left unoccupied, law and order collapsed, Important Roman towns like London, Colchester got abandoned for almost three centuries, the newly created hoi polloi (mixture of local and the invading tribes) converted to Christianity only after St Augustine with his 40 assistants arrived in 597 AD.

      Why was there so little resistance to what essentially appears to have been a near peaceful immigration by a small number of invaders?

  • Daniel Maris

    Feeling guilty after telling us it doesn’t matter, and is probably all for the best, if Londoners no longer feel English? What’s the point in learning English history if you don’t feel English?

    Into the corner with the dunce’s cap.

    • Rahul Kamath

      Alex has really gotten under your skin hasn’t he. I say well done Alex.

      • Daniel Maris

        He hasn’t got under my skin, Rahul. Indeed, it’s not me who has the obsession with skin. I simply noticed that v. soon after posting that he was quietly content with the idea that Londoners were becoming less English, he throws in a post full of cultural senstitivity to the cultural importance of the past. Made me think: guilty conscience…

        My own view is he overdoes that. I don’t expect people to know our history. I do however expect people to meet certain minimum standards of citizenship.
        One of those standards is not seeking to supplant our democracy with Sharia law.

        • Rahul Kamath

          I was trolling you (in retrospect). My apologies. You won’t find any arguments from me on meeting minimum standards of citizenship. I also think concerns abt democracy being supplanted by sharia law are sort of three standard deviations away from the mean!

  • Wyrdtimes

    As far as the UK government is concerned there is no English history.

    Scotsman Gove, no doubt working closely with Scotsman Niall Ferguson wants English kids to learn “our island story”. This will be British not English history. Even the history that is clearly English (pre Union) will be re-branded as British (see the English civil war re-brand). Meanwhile Scottish kids will be learning Scottish history, Welsh kids will be learning Welsh history etc.

    Very similar to Gordon Brown’s Britishness lessons for English kids only.

    The BBC has spent a fortune producing epic history series about Scotland and Wales. Where’s the equally epic History of England? It’s possible it’s on the drawing board but I doubt it. I doubt it because the BBC has no English history team. The BBC doesn’t even have a BBC England while of course there is BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland.

    The BBC is far more likely to make a history of the North West or Midlands region than anything about England as a nation.

    There is & with lots of resources. returns a 404. English history is bundled under

    The BBC reflects the UK governments thinking on England and the UK government does not want English people to feel English. It most definitely does not want English people learning about the English revolutionary war in case we start calling ourselves the freeborn English again and start to demand the birthrights of English liberty and an English parliament. Can’t have that can we? Because that threatens to blow away the whole UK con.

    • Wessex Man

      “There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other.

      That word is ENGLAND.”

      Sir Winston Churchill.

  • Ron Todd

    I went to a Scottish school and I know more English history than most English people I know.

    • Bishop Hill

      My kids also go to Scottish schools and have learned almost no Scottish history beyond Mary Queen of Scots and William Wallace. Their knowledge of English history, based on Horrible Histories and Our Island Story is really very good.

      • Ron Todd

        Yes.I think a lot of kids now pick up as much from outside school as from inside school.

  • CraigStrachan

    ” I was given an English education in Scotland”

    I wikipedia’d you on this. A fair assessment of where you went to school, I’d say!

    (BTW your Wikipedia article’s section on “Personal Life” consists in toto of the information that you support Heart of Midlothian. Which is probably saying enough. Maybe too much.)

  • Ali Buchan

    Notwithstanding arguments about fostering social cohesion, ‘national identity’ and the undefinable ‘debt’ which we are supposed to owe our forebears, why should a greater emphasis be put on studying the history of our nation? We currently have the opportunity to study world history in a way that has been denied to civilised society until, in relative terms, very recently – let’s take advantage!

    I had a wonderful history teacher in my A-Level years – fresh out of Oxford and with no teaching qualifications – who took me through Korea and the Civil Rights Movement. It was truly wonderful to feel my mind opening in such a way, having dredged through the usual British subjects in the preceding years. In the same way that foreign travel is supposed to broaden the mind, doesn’t the study of foreign history do that, too?

    And anyway, a knowledge of British history is no more valuable than a knowledge of a different nation’s past – no one historical fact is more valuable than another. We learn history for the exercise and development of our skills of analysis, in addition, of course, to enjoyment of the subject.

    So, surely our main concern should be that our kids given ever opportunity to encounter their favourite historical era, no matter the country, that encourages them to take study of the subject into A-Level and perhaps beyond.

  • Cogito Ergosum

    I was always more interested in the sciences, so did not take in much history from school. We touched on the stone ages, bronze age, iron age; then in more detail the Romans, the Saxons, and England as far as James 1. (At that stage I dropped history.) There were isolated references to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, and the Phoenicians; but no real explanation of how they related to Britain. Nevertheless, in retrospect it was a good broad coverage.

    My real interest in history came from reading about World War 2 and then working both backwards and forwards; and also as a scientist reading about the history of our planet. Four thousand million years of that puts ten thousand years of human history into perspective, as it does with millions of years of global warming and ice ages.

    Perhaps the girls might be less interested in the WW2 fighting. I often wonder what they made of Latin lessons devoted to Caesar’s war memoirs. (Virgil was a total blank to me.)

  • Stuart Eels

    A nephew of mine was taught about the struggle of the Native Americans, a truly worthy subject but not for a British boy.

    I would say that it comes down to the sort of teacher you get, our History teacher made the History of these Islands come alive in our minds. The British have much to be proud of and some to be ashamed of. An excellent Christmas Present if still in print for your children would be Sir Winston Churchill’s This Island Race.

    • salieri

      … which today would be banned for its title alone.

    • John Hall

      Or H.E. Marshall’s sublime ‘Our Island Story’, then pitched at six year olds but probably better for tens given current literacy attainment.

      • Stuart Eels

        It’s all rather sad to see the young leaving schools unable to read or write after a minimum of eleven years of so called education, teachers seem to think it’s not their job to teach. Universities having to give entrants a crash courses in English, could this be the reason that well educated young poles are accepted by employers ahead of our own young people?

        • DGS

          All primary school leavers should be issued with Ernst Gombrich’s Little History of the World. Wouldn’t even cost much. Job done.

  • judyk113

    My grammar school history curriculum was more or less a chronological tour with from the Romans and Saxon Settlements in Form 1 to 1914. I did history GCE but can’t recall what the syllabus was other than English political history. We had to do an independent local history project in form 2, choosing a local place of our own choice. Being in Stepney, we were in the heart of historic London, so there was no shortage of choice. This was a whole big deal for lots of the girls, who had their dads doing special photos, and productions in laminated albums, like the sort people have their wedding photos in. My parents were refugees who had no idea of what school projects were and would have regarded it as cheating to help me in any way. I didn’t have a clue about any of that (and we weren’t given any guidance that I remember). Almost everyone wrote about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (where they cast the Liberty Bell). I think it must be because you could get a little booklet from them which you could work into an essay. I chose the Tower of London, and just wrote whatever I knew about its history. Apart from writing it out in best writing on blue Basildon Bond paper, I didn’t go in for special presentation. It still got second prize.

    However, I do remember a series of textbooks (was it Whitmarsh and Newmark, or were they the French textbook?), bound in green cloth, of which the one that most fascinated me was the one on the Victorian period, which was illustrated with Punch cartoons of the period. I was totally fascinated by them. Enough to have gone on to do history A level, which I loved. Well, two thirds of which I loved. One paper was Victorian history (more time with those Punch cartoons) and our teacher helped us understand the impact of the Industrial revolution and the struggle for the vote, and for public health and reform as well as the character, role and politics of the key Prime Ministers. Palmerston was a particular hero. I suppose it was pretty much a Whig view of history, in which colonization was a benign venture. Then there was a paper on social history of the 18th and 19th centuries, which seemed to include opportunities to write in the character of Jane Austen and gave me my first trip to the Museum of London, a revelation. And the paper I least liked was the European History from 1600 or thereabouts to 1914. I really didn’t take to the intrigues of Louis XIVth and the like, but I did get very interested in and fired up by the 1848 revolutions and the independence struggles of Garibaldi et al.

    I’ve very much appreciated the knowledge and understanding it gave me, though I chose to study Eng Lit at university. But I find that most of the books I read and most enjoy now are historical studies.

    I do think English children should do chronological history surveys, that they should be better guided into how to undertake some local study on a small scale, and that they should study political, economic and social history for each period they study. I also feel that they should be taught how to understand that histories have biases which can be identified and taken into account. And of course, they should be helped to see how different people of the history periods/localities they study saw and portrayed themselves and others.

  • theocritus

    American history is virtually non-existant in schools. Instead we get screeds about how paternalistic, racist–pick a phobia–the Founding Fathers were, and it is arguable that there has never been a stronger group of minds than in Philadelphia some 200 years ago. As a group.

    History means the study of other people and other times, and does not allow for the endless self-absorption of modern American academics. Modern teachers teach the Current Truth, not what happened. Most modern American schools have nothing to do with history, only indoctrination. Reality is a hard row to hoe for a progressive; it cuts down on his solipsism and history will be his natural enemy. Or more likely these days in academe, her natural enemy.

    Even the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has had its dioramas made PC. Laments about how the male lion doesn’t actually hunt; the females do. Natural history is explained to children in terms of modern progressive thought. Such as it is.

    For this I pay taxes?

  • John Hall

    13+ Common Entrance took in a 2000 year narrative of England in the main, albeit that it was mainly of the Willy, Willy,Harry, Ste type. Britain was only considered where it collided with that English story. It WAS Whiggish but provided an excellent context to later more detailed study. In short, a gentle smattering left us not completely blind whatever period was to arise under discussion later. It is this general component that is so lacking in the curricula of today as we bent double to accomodate those whose identity wasn’t naturally traditionally British.

  • terence patrick hewett

    To appreciate British culture and its future, I suggest you do the following. Look at some Gillray and Cruikshank cartoons whilst taking in the Rakes Progress by Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson’s the English Dance of Death. Then start on Boudicca and work your way through history taking in the Roman Conquest, the Saxon Invasion, Alfred, Harold, the Norman Conquest, the Magna Carta, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, the Black Death, the Peasants Revolt, the third Poll Tax, the Lollards, Henry V, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Walsingham, Richard Topcliffe, the Douai Priests, Dr John Dee, James I (James VI of Scotland), Guy Fawkes et al, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, the three English Civil Wars, the Levellers, the Diggers, the Ranters, the Shakers, the
    Quakers, the Seekers, the Muggletonians, William and Mary, Pitt the Younger, George III, Pitt the Elder, the fourth English Civil War commonly called the American Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Macaulay, Nelson, Wellington, Victoria, the Chartists, Sir Robert Peel, Palmeston, Disraeli, Gladstone, Daniel O’Connell, Lloyd George, Churchill, Atlee, Enoch Powell and Thatcher. Or you can read 1066 and All That by Sellar and Yeatman. Not forgetting to take in
    Chaucer (for glossary see The A.B.C. of Reading by Ezra Pound), Piers Ploughman, Shakespeare, Milton, Thomas Hobbes, Pilgrims Progress, John Locke, Adam Smith, the Authorized Bible, the Douai Bible, Isaac Newton, Cobbett’s Rural Rides, John Stuart Mill, Samuel Pepys, Edmund Burke, Dr Johnson, William Blake, Thomas Paine, Macaulay, Dickens, Karl Marx, Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, A Child of the Jago, The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, Three Men on the Bummel (chapter 14), England Their England by A G Macdonell, George Orwell and P G Wodehouse. After all that, you may concur with George Bernard Shaw that “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.” Well, you would be right. We have spent the last two thousand years trying to kill each other in the most horrible ways we can devise. Although we have done for an awful lot of foreigners on the way, we reserve our most vicious bile and malice for our own. British culture, with its tradition of satire, scandal and sedition, is about settling old scores, real or imagined and we can hardly wait to put the boot in. However, not being a cynic, I am more
    inclined to the view propagated by Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. “L—d! said my mother, what is this story all about? —A Cock and a Bull said Yorick—And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.”

    • mumble


  • Bishop Hill

    If you examine the new Scottish curriculum, history is there, but buried. Safe to say it’s not a priority.