Yes but what history?

Politicians are jumping on the kids are not learning enough history, though frankly not a week goes by without politicians jumping on some sort of hobbyhorse or outrage…

Mind you, they do have sort of a point in this case as they believe that citizenship classes ought to be dropped in favour of more than an hour of history being taught a week.


School history lessons should be overhauled and a British history qualification brought in for 16-year-olds, urges a group of MPs and peers.
The average 13-year-old learns history for just one hour a week, says a report from the all-party parliamentary group.
The government should allow schools in England to replace citizenship classes with history lessons, says the report.
The government said it was looking at history teaching as part of the national curriculum review.
The report, from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on History and Archives, says many schools regard history as too tough for their weaker students and allow them to drop it after two years at secondary school.
It also highlights widespread concerns about the curriculum, in terms both of content and the pace at which it is taught.
“It is very difficult to generate understanding and a sense of chronology in such abbreviated time periods,” says the report.

Yes, citizenship classes are a complete waste of time, they don’t really tell you that much about being a citizen, but rather what the politically correct in the powers that be believe we should know.After all, one of the questions asked is which was the largest immigrant group in the 1980’s along with questions about Ulster Scots dialects…

However history as it is taught is not much better, I love history and have studied various bits and bobs of it over the years, I’m no expert, but I do enjoy it. However school history damned near put me off it for life. There’s no consistency, huge chunks are missed out and for some God awful reason my class were made to study up to O level standard the amazing A Social and Economic History of Britain 1760-1965 by Pauline Gregg which completely missed out the Napoleonic Wars other than as an aside to the repeal of the corn laws. It was a socialists wet dream of a book denigrating the Empire and going on and one about social injustice and slavery without mentioning that it was the Royal Navy that helped stamp it out. Plenty about the Chartists and the Peterloo massacre along with the Tolpuddle martyrs but no mention of WW1. It truly had to be read to be believed (or not believed in most cases)

So yes, I’m all in favour of British history being taught, but I do wonder just what British history will be taught…

22 comments for “Yes but what history?

  1. Robert Edwards
    December 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    History is the most politicized of the Social Sciences and as such is too important to be left to the left. It is always interesting to read the work of ‘Marxist Historians’ (on the basis that one should always understand one’s enemy) and it is often more interesting to note what is omitted as opposed to what is included.

    The ‘Blackadder school’ of addressing the Great War is a case in point and, surprisingly perhaps, Alan Clark’s ‘The Donkeys’ is one of the most egregious examples I have read. ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ is an entirely fictitious remark, for example, (Clark made it up)and it rather goes from there, to ‘Oh! What a lovely War’, to much fiction and thence to the ‘BBC view’ and to thus to ‘Blackadder.’

    And so one must cover the ground with some dedication in order to sort out what it was that might have happened, why it happened and what the consequences were for the modern reader.

    So many topics are ‘loaded’ that it is difficult to know where to begin. As a writer of non-fiction, I find – often – that the most appalling errors are simply repeated from source to source with the result that whichever latest effort is the result, most work is some version of a re-write.

    From some, we know what to expect; Christopher Hill, Hobsbawm, et. al., but there are others who duck and cover – E.H. Carr, for example, where the agenda is clear, whereas the motivation is not.

    This applies particularly to C20 history, as it is the most obviously relevant, but Civil Wars are also a rich stew of disinformation, particularly the American one, or, as I prefer to think of it, the last English one. Your example of the slave trade is bang-on.

    But generally speaking, left wing analysis borders on couterfactuals; an amusing parlour game, but of little practical use. I’d rather the little darlings knew bugger all than the PC version…

    • Simon
      December 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

      The main problem with politicians making judgements about which history should be taught is that they know so little of it. Take the comment above. Hill was actually a pretty good historian. Yes he was a Marxist- but he was also one of the first to make really good use of secondary sources beyond the Thomason tracts for the civil war. He pushed his pupils to go into manuscript sources- often written by people we knew nothing about. What happened is that they changed their views after the encounter with the sources- so if you look at Keith Wrightson for example you can see that trajectory. But Hill was not just a Marxist biassed hack: he was a proper historian and I’d rather that a school kid read him than read say Andrew Roberts because they can get from Hill what intellectual inquiry actually means.

    • Simon
      December 11, 2012 at 1:33 am

      Also History is not a social science.

      And by the way the BRitish empire was neither unreservedly good or bad- it was an empire and like many others had its fair share of villains.

      • December 11, 2012 at 7:09 am

        You mean, ‘history is not a social science’ yet… 😯

      • Robert Edwards
        December 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

        Sorry – my bad – should have been in quotes!

  2. Greg Tingey
    December 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    And the other lot are no better.
    There was someone (Stone?) a favourite of the madwoman from Grantham, anyway, who claimed the space programme (any space programme) was useless.

    My favourite is the obsession historians have with Boney – just another murderous tyrant – as compared to the (14-years-younger) poor son of a miner, who taught himself (with help) to read & write between the ages of 14 &17, & who changed the planet, permanently & for the better, & had much more influence ….
    Born 1781, Killingworth, Norhumberland.
    Now, who am I talking about?

    • James Strong
      December 11, 2012 at 7:07 am

      I don’t know. Who is it?

  3. Robert Edwards
    December 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I’d imagine that’s my hero George. You are correct re. dear Norman, splendid though he is…

    • Greg Tingey
      December 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Geordie Stephenson 1781 – 1848

      • Tatty
        December 11, 2012 at 8:51 am

        T’internet claims he was born in Wylam… later moved near Killingworth then went on to work at Killingworth Colliery.

        Is t’internet wrong, then ?

        • Greg Tingey
          December 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

          I am quoting from the magisterial L.T.C.Rolt biography ….
          And I was reading in too much of a hurry.
          His father had woked @ Killingworth, but moved temporarily to Wylam – & moved back, later.
          The first chapter is entitled “Early days at Killingworth”.

  4. Voice of Reason
    December 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    If you don’t know your country’s history (with all faults included), then you don’t know who you are.

  5. December 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Waddya mean ‘lions led by donkeys’ is fictitious? Napoleon said it. And if he didn’t, well, it’s still true. Somebody else said ‘the English are socially violent and politically docile’. Now there’s a truth! Where’s the revolution against our incompetent rich leaders?

    Anyway, I observe that the history wot is taught to kids today is that of this century. The wars, the depression, the holocaust and similar. Not a bean about earlier, Drake, Liz I, the ind. rev., the empire, Magna wotsit, the invention of the loo and so on. Poor devils.

    • Voice of Reason
      December 11, 2012 at 2:17 am

      The loo was invented by the Chinese. To quote Blackadder II, we used to ‘crap out of the window’ until very recently.

    • Single Acts of Tyranny
      December 11, 2012 at 3:40 am

      I recently saw a state school teacher who didn’t know anything about the Crimean war and was unclear about the participants in WW1.

      Another asked me if Moses was a Jewish name (sic).

      • December 11, 2012 at 7:10 am


  6. December 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    “Trust nobody’s version of history, but listen to everybody’s and ponder” may be the best lesson to teach. Wouldn’t take long.

    Then as an exercise get everyone to write an account of what important events happened in school over the previous year and reflect on how these accounts differ.

  7. Tatty
    December 11, 2012 at 8:47 am

    With my daughter’s secondary school treating history as something to be sexed-up DM stylie….a homework assignment last year was to create a facebook page for **Hitler (really)…the presentation is as much of a worry as content.

    **I wasn’t the only parent to query and refuse this assignment.

    • ivan
      December 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

      What exactly does creating a farcebook page have to do with history? Oh, wait, I see – it was supposed to be the start of rewriting history to fit the Marxist lefty outlook of the teaching profession.

      • Tatty
        December 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

        it was supposed to be the start of rewriting history to fit the Marxist lefty outlook of the teaching profession.

        Dunno ’bout that… I think it was “Appealing To The Lowest Common Denominator”. Teachers included.

    • Voice of Reason
      December 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      ‘Vegetarian dog-lover who doesn’t bathe with plans for World domination seeking like-minded individuals’.

Comments are closed.