Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Wrong Side of History

Because the PO closes at 5.30 we are used to sitting waiting for the news at 6pm, despite knowing it probably won't last past the headlines, and to fill in the time we watch Pointless, despite ourselves shaking our heads at the subjects. I always like to test myself with geography or history but on all quiz shows now you tend to get sport or music which both mean nothing to me, the former is always what I have to answer in Trivial Pursuit when looking to win, "ask him a sports question, sport, sport!"

So, this evening when Military History came up I was prepared, however as the first battles, you got a clue, the year and the initials, appeared on screen I wondered just who had picked these simplest of questions, none would get under 70 for an answer (you have to get the lowest score in Pointless you see).

The first battles were Hastings, Little Big Horn, Balaclava, El Alamein, Bannockburn and another. One Scot had not a clue but managed to claw Bannockburn from the back of his mind while saying he wasn't sure who had fought Edward II in 1314, not an SNP or Scotland supporter then. A woman  went with Bengal for the Crimean War and Balaclava, while another went for East Africa for Montgomery's victory. The only struggle I could see with the second round may have been Plassey, but Gettysburg, Agincourt, Waterloo and the others were all gifts for anyone with an even passing interest in military history or history at all. Out of a hundred people asked about each less than a third had heard of any of them, even the most famous of British battles.

If you went to school and took anything in at all you must have heard of Waterloo at least, surely. Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer fought there for heaven's sake.

I couldn't tell you the square root of a jam jar but I could turn it into a molotov and chuck it at a tank because they did that in the war, you know, the one we won. I honestly despair or have I just got my priorities wrong, history is important without it we have no lineage, no collective bond, we really would be citizens of the world and therefore citizens of nowhere.

8 comments:

  1. The thing that annoys me most mind you, are the revisionist historians - you know, the ones who try to say that it wasn't Wellington who won at Waterloo, but Blucher...etc.

    Actually, maybe it's just the BBC who like to reinvent history with a left wing basis with shows like The Tudors and the recent Versailles...*sigh*

    Don't even start me on that bloody Musketeers show...

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    1. And don't forget all the females who were actually behind everything but never get a mention.

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  2. What little History that is taught in schools these days is nothing to do with battles or dates or what actually happened (hence the "new" National Army Museum). I went to a very traditional school where History ended in 1789 - anything later was considered Current Affairs!

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  3. Dear me, George, you're a former serviceman and a Wargamer so of course you are interested in battles but it's not really on to extrapolate from that background to the common heard is it? Two of your examples are American, so why should anyone have heard of them? Have a look at the National Curriculum for History and be reassured it's alive and well in schools, just not the narrow focus Wargamers assume it should have. By the way though, I'm with you on Pointless, the most aptly named programme in to history!

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    1. Maybe I should get out more, or maybe it was the shock of a Scot not believing in Bannockburn.

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    2. So we now have a generation (or two) who can empathize with the victims of colonial oppression (sic), fervently believe the plucky Ghanaians were the real deciding factor in two world wars and absolutely know that Mary Seacole was the only significant figure in the Crimean War (in Bengal or wherever it was). Just a pity they have virtually no knowledge of events (including battles), timelines, context or characters (mainly male but with a very few females) that have shaped the modern world.

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    3. A comment there Jeremy that does you little credit. No one believes facts are irrelevant, but nor are they the whole substance. Your examples, plucked from many, are hardly representative. I refer you, as above, to the National Curriculum documents you can google.

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