Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Children Should Learn

Simon Schama has listed his six key moments from our history which he feels that all children should learn,
Death of Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162, was embroiled in a conflict with Henry II over the power of the Church before being assassinated by the King’s followers in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
Black Death and the Peasants Revolt
The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 1.5m people between 1348 and 1350 and resulting changes to England’s social structure contributed to the Peasants Revolt of 1381.
Execution of King Charles I
The death of Charles I followed his defeat on the battlefield by Parliamentary forces led by Oliver Cromwell. The King was charged with high treason and put to death in 1649.
Occupation of India
Rule over India was to last almost 200 years until 1947 as the Britain hung onto its prized Imperial asset while losing its grip on most of America.
The Opium Wars and China
The conflict between the UK and China was fought in from 1839 with the aim of securing key economic benefits in the Far East, leading to the cession of Hong Kong.
The Irish Wars
Prime Minister William Gladstone attempted to solve the “Irish question” by passing his Land Act in 1870, along with education and religious reforms,
An interesting overview of our history. But looking at it it is all pretty heavy on guilt if you ask me. India, The Opium Wars and the Irish wars seem to be there to show how ghastly and bad we have been as a nation. The peasants revolt to show the way in which the poor were always trying to throw off their shackles.

To me it seems that that which should be compulsory is that which either builds pride, or that which is essential for us to understand who we are. Why? Because that way you engage young minds in the story of these isles. Later when the imagination is engaged one should easily move on to the less glorious aspects of our story.

So for what it is worth my six.

Well you have to start somewhere, and British history without the Norman conquest is akin to bread without flour.
Thomas a Beckett
I agree with Schama on this as it is such an important moment. The start of a division between church and state. Also the beginning of the idea of the Church of England, rather than the church in England.
Magna Carta
The events leading up to it, and the formal beginning of the growth of Liberty
The Split from Rome
Henry the Eighth and the reformation in Britain. Had a massive impact on the rise of Britain and its sense of self
The Civil War-Glorious Revolution
The way in which autocracy was overthrown and the shifting of power within the nation away from the King and towards the people.
The Napoleonic Period
Britain, France, Empire, Wellington, Mrs Bellamy's pies. War, glory, liberty, blood, guts, costumes, heroism, Corunna, defeat. What's not to like? 

Of course everybody will have their own ideas, so what would you choose?


Anonymous said...

Schama's list strikes me very much as that of a country in decline; it is all about looking back in remorse, no hint of a national narrative that could continue into the future. The only narrative that could be taken from his list at all is one of oppression and crime that we need to put an end to.

Of course we need to remember events such as the Amristar Massacre and the part our nation played in it, to ensure we never do something of that sort again. But we also need to know what we DO need to do again: Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution from your own list being excellent examples, along with the 1832 Reform Act or the Parliament Act of 1911. If we don't learn where our system of government and democracy comes from, how hard it was to achieve, we have much less compulsion to defend it and, worse, we don't have any clear identity of ourselves as a nation in the modern world. (Btw: I finished my A-levels, including history, in 2005, and the first time I had heard of Magna Carta was from watching The Simpsons. Says something about British state education, that).

Baron Metzengerstein said...

No Edward III & The Black Prince? Poicters? Cressy?

It may be somewhat politically incorrect to hold military valor high but...hey, those were my favorite parts of history.

Also, should start with at least Alfred the Great and the uniting of the Heptarchy (if not starting from Marcus Aurelius)...