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Rough guide to British history
I came home from the Department of Light bulb Changers last night feeling a little depressed. It seems that more and more I am judged not by the quality of my work, but by whether I have “hit my targets” and “complied with criteria”. My record does not speak for itself any longer; apparently I must be more aware of how strangers perceive me. Older UK readers will remember the comedy programme of the 1960s about the two tailors, one Jewish and his Irish partner. Never mind the Quality, feel the Width.
So I recognise the problem caused by this hasty piece of work done at the Home Office. Not content with losing several thousand foreign prisoners who should have been deported after serving their sentences they have produced Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, which was intended to be a guide for immigrants wanting to become British citizens and which is riddled with errors.
The drafter (I can’t call him a writer, or author, really I can’t) of this pamphlet (I can’t call it a book either) is Sir Bernard Crick.
The Times reports:- Although he wishes that he had had the time to send a draft to “professional historians”, Sir Bernard said that it had been more important to get the document into print.
Definitely Never mind the Quality, feel the Width.
As an Orwell expert, Sir Bernard is well aware that comparisons are being made by his detractors to Winston Smith, the clerk for the Ministry of Truth in 1984, whose job was to rewrite historical documents daily according to the party line. However, although he admitted that errors had occured because of the speed with which the booklet had had to be written, he said that it was an independent work despite the official-looking binding.
The Historical Association which represents historians at schools and universities, is outraged at some of the “facts” in the booklet and is proposing to write its own account — but is hampered by the very concept of having official historical accounts at all. “Official histories are a bad thing because they can be used for establishing government purposes and can be reinvented to support the official Establishment,” Barry Coward, president of the Historical Association, said. “This has been shown throughout history, as we saw in Hitler’s Germany. We think this is the thin end of the wedge and that history shouldn’t be used as a tool of Government.”
A selection of the errors.
The Act of Union in 1707 between Scotland and England created the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom did not come into being until 1800, with the Act of Union with Ireland, which is not mentioned.
The Celts were pushed to the country’s western fringes by the Saxons
Incorrect. Most stayed where they were, although some moved north and west
Queen Mary “came to the throne with Spanish support”
Mary defeated Lady Jane Grey’s bid to usurp the throne with a huge wave of English support
Charles II was recalled from exile in France
He was recalled from the Netherlands.
Cromwell beat Charles II at Worcester, before invading Scotland
Cromwell beat Charles II some time after invading Scotland (Dates would have been nice, Cromwell’s victory over the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar Sept 1650, Royalist defeat at the Battle of Worcester August 165, my source Antonia Fraser, HA failed to meet criteria by showing insufficient evidence of… blah blah blah....)
Labour was in government under Harold Wilson, who was in office from 1974 to 1979
Wilson was Prime Minister from 1974 until 1976, when he resigned. He was succeeded by James Callaghan. (this criterion met by provision of evidence, ie dates, tick box to indicate compliance)