History Like It Used to Be

History like it used to be

Because I was taught history properly by my prep-school teacher Mr Bradshaw, my head is full of easily accessible dates which I know I’ll never forget. Obviously, I know Crécy (1346) and Agincourt (1415), but I also know one or two more obscure ones like those of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet. This is because of a cunning acronym Brad taught me — a phone number BROM 4689 — which I dare say I remembered mainly because at the time I lived in Bromsgrove.

According to the new history-teaching orthodoxy, of course, dates are an unwelcome imposition on a child’s creative spirit. What matters now is not whether you can remember why, when or by whom great battles were fought, but how well you can empathise with the misery felt by their participants. Not royal or noble participants, obviously, because they’re insufficiently representative of the common man. This is why every Nu Generation history teacher’s favourite war is the Crimean War: because then you get to bring in Mary Seacole.

How do we stop our kids being bored rigid by this turgid PC drivel? How do we rescue them from the even more depressing new orthodoxy, whereby history is to be taught not as an exciting narrative about goodies and baddies shoving red-hot pokers up kings’ bottoms and sailing the seas in ships called Shit Fire, but as a multiplicity of competing viewpoints which render all attempts at objectivity ultimately meaningless?

One option is to drip-feed them at home with excerpts from proper old-school history books like H.E. Marshall’s Our Island Story (republished by Civitas), Ladybird Series 561 classics like King Alfred the Great and Oliver Cromwell, or George Chamier’s more recent When It Happened in Britain. Another is to get them watching the BBC’s Horrible Histories (CBBC). Not that they’ll need much persuasion. If they’re anything like my kids, they’ll be on to it already — probably viewing it on computers via BBC’s iPlayer because that’s how the inheritors of the earth do things these days.

(to read more, click here)

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4 thoughts on “History like it used to be”

  1. James W says:21st June 2010 at 1:55 pmLooks like a great piece – I shall save reading it in full until I pick up my Speccie.

    Anyway, fully agree, it’s dreadful leftist garbage isn’t it?

    Quite depressing that the left are happy to consign the nation’s fantastic history to, well, history………..all for the sake of wanting kids to know what it was like to go without TV, toothpaste, tetracycline and Toblerones.

    I fucking loath the left.

  2. Herkinderkin says:4th July 2012 at 3:14 amJames, the “”red more, click here” link throws a 404 error..
    1. Eric says:4th July 2012 at 3:21 amIt looks like the problem is on The Spectator site – there are google links to the article, but the article is not showing on Spectator.
      1. Herkinderkin says:4th July 2012 at 4:02 amThanks Eric. I’ll come back to it tomorrow – his subject is dear to my heart. Mrs H and I had to assist in our own children’s primary school education by teaching them basic arithmetic, English, spelling and grammar, as none of those were addressed adequately by the schooling at the time.

        And this is the scary bit – our kids are the same generation as James. Now, HE writes as a concerned parent, so how much worse has it become after another generation of galloping political correctness?

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Men Fight for Their ‘Mates’ — It Is the Secret of Why They So Love War

One of the nicest, gentlest fellows I’ve ever met is a man named Mike Dauncey. He’s so terribly polite that he can’t bring himself to swear even in extremis and if you had to guess what he did before he retired, you’d probably say ‘country parson’. In fact, though, Brigadier Mike Dauncey DSO is a bona fide war hero, known as the ‘sixth Arnhem VC’. Only five were in fact awarded at the battle. Mike was put up for the sixth, only to have the letters ‘VC’ crossed out on his citation and amended to ‘DSO’ by one BLM (that’ll be Bernard Law Montgomery) who felt that, heroism or no heroism, five VCs were quite enough for one debacle.

When you learn what Mike did as a young lieutenant, though, you’re left in little doubt he deserved better.

(to read more, click here)

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My moment of rock-star glory at a climate change sceptics’ conference in America | James Delingpole

May 27, 2010

Wow! Finally in my life I get to experience what it’s like to be a rock star and I’m loving every moment. OK, so the drugs are in pretty short supply. As too is the meaningless sex with nubile groupies. But what do I care, the crowd love me and I love them. God bless America! God bless the Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change!

You’d think it would be quite dull, a conference of 700 climate sceptics (or ‘realists’, as we prefer to call ourselves) cooped up for two and half days of intense panel sessions (‘Quantifying the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Organisms’; ‘Green Eggs and Scam: the Myth of Green Jobs’; ‘Analysis of the Russian Segment of the HADCRUT3 Database’) and lectures (beginning at 7.30 a.m). But I haven’t had so much fun in years.

(to read more, click here)

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Tales of the unexpected | James Delingpole

May 22, 2010

The closest I’ve come to seeing a ghost was a few months ago when we went to stay in a haunted house. We had a deeply uncomfortable night during which it was cold and hard to sleep, and in the small hours my wife was awoken by a mysterious pressure on her chest, almost as if she was suffocating, and which may have been the tortured spirit of whoever it was who had died horribly there or which might have been the heavy quilt. Dunno. Couldn’t say. I’m itching to have a 100 per cent, cast-iron ‘Yes I saw a ghost and it was definitely a ghost’ experience, but this wasn’t it. Otherwise, this intro would have been more exciting.

Why do I so want to see a ghost? Well a) obviously so that I can write about it and tell people about it at dinner and b) because the longer I live under the extended Blair/Brown/Cameron nightmare the more reluctant I am to accept that this life is all there is. There are lots of people out there like me and they’re the reason Liverpudlian Joe Power is able to earn a living. Power sees dead people and for a small consideration of £40 (for a private consultation) or a tenner a head for one of his hotel events will communicate their messages from beyond the grave to their loved ones.

(to read more, click here)

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It is left to me to point out this regrettable, overlooked fact: Dave blew it | James Delingpole

May 22, 2010

This is a column I never thought I’d have to write. I’d assumed that the conclusions to be drawn from the general election were so bleeding obvious that I could leave all the post-match analysis to the experts, while I distracted you with something more cheerful like, say, a piece about Fergal Keane’s brilliant new book on the battle of Kohima.

Apparently not, though. It seems that my job today is to point out an awkward fact that seems to have eluded about 98 per cent of political commentators in the mainstream media and 99.99 per cent of those Conservatives who invested their faith in Project Cameron: Dave blew it.

No, really. He did. Never mind that nonsense about the biggest swing since 1931, making the party electable again, tremendous achievement, best he could have hoped for and all the other desperate apologiae we’ve been hearing of late. Dave had an open goal — or at least one manned only by a cackhanded, decrepid, one-eyed nutcase, viscerally loathed not just by the opposition but by half his own team — and the best he could manage was to hit the post.

(to read more, click here)

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Men Only | James Delingpole

April 22, 2010

I think it’s about time someone explained to women how to watch war films. They just don’t get them, in much the same way men don’t get handbags or expensive girl-shoes. They think it’s all boring and that the characters all look the same, so how can you care about them? They think there’s far too much shooting and killing and violence and horror and bang bang bang and it’s like watching paint dry. They’d rather let you watch on your own, if you don’t mind, while they go upstairs and read in the bath.

(to read more, click here)

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Most gay men have realised that the Oppressed Victimhood party is totally over | James Delingpole

April 22, 2010

Some of my best friends are gay — but now I can go one better than that: one of them is HIV positive. ‘But that’s brilliant news!’ I told my friend when he spilled the beans the other day. ‘Now I can go round claiming victim cred by association. And if anyone makes an AIDS joke I can be, like, seriously offended and put on a solemn voice and say: “Actually, you know, if you had an HIV positive friend like I do…”.’ My friend agreed that being HIV positive was a very handy thing to be, in this respect. But on further consideration, we decided it would have carried more victim cred weight in the days before anti-retroviral drugs when a) it was a death sentence; and b) being gay won you many more oppressed-minority brownie points.

Personally I blame Ken Livingstone.

(to read more, click here)

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Trouble Upriver

I rarely review TV drama.

Three reasons why I hardly ever review TV drama: 1) the length, 2) the politics, 3) sheer bloody laziness. I suppose the last one is the main reason but the others aren’t just excuses. It really is too depressing when, three hours into one of those Sunday and Monday two-part dramas, you suddenly realise that you’ve already wasted one evening and you’re about to waste another, but that you can’t bail out now because you’re in too deep — and what if something good and exciting suddenly happens?

Almost all TV drama is too long and the reason for this is that the more screen hours you fill the bigger your commissioning budget. So any ambitious director who wants to make a halfway decent-looking drama has to pad it out till it’s as bloated as a foie gras goose. This, of course, builds up expectations which the dénouement cannot possibly hope to fulfil. Especially not when — as is invariably the case, given the political sympathies of 99.99 per cent of people in TV — the twist turns out to be that the baddie wasn’t after all the innocent black crack dealer or the misunderstood Islamist or the fundamentalist eco-loon but, yes, yet another of those secretly evil, white middle-class males who make our world such a terrifyingly dangerous place.

Anyway, I’ve only seen part one of Blood and Oil (BBC2, Monday) and, though all of the above may yet hold true with part two, I’m enjoying it immensely so far.

(to read more, click here)

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If I could go back in time to my Oxford days, I’d warn myself against idolising Cameron | James Delingpole

April 8, 2010

How odd to think that there was a time when I looked up to David Cameron. From the moment we were introduced at the beginning of my second year at Oxford, I remember being mesmerised by his confidence, his charisma, his looks, that amused plummy accent and — yes — perhaps, also, that slight vibe so many Etonians projected in those days that if you hadn’t been to ‘School’ you really weren’t quite the thing. It all made you want to get to know him better. Which I did. And I very much liked what I found.

If you’d told me then that David Cameron would one day be prime minister, I’m sure I would have been tickled pink. I didn’t know what his politics were but I had my vague suspicions: a belief in traditional English values spiced with a love of liberty and a healthy disrespect for arbitrary authority; almost certainly a distrust of big government and a hatred of political correctness and joyless, snarling, bitter socialism. Just the kind of brave captain you’d want at the helm if ever there was another national crisis.

But now look at him… (to read more, click here)

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I’ve Never met a Girl Who Hero-Worships Martin Amis As I Do — Except Maybe His Wife

I’ve never met a girl who hero-worships Martin Amis as I do — except maybe his wife

M. ‘I’ve spotted him!’

Me. ‘Where?’

M. ‘Down there. Having a coffee. On his own.’

Me. ‘Hey. Do you think he’d like it if we joined him?’

M. ‘I doubt it. He’s reading a book.’

D. ‘God, is he reading his own book? Unbelievable. He’s reading Yellow Dog.’

M. ‘No it’s not. I think it’s Hitch 22.’

Me. ‘Yeah well, whatever it is, look, he’s almost at the end. You know how it is when you’re nearly at the end of the book. You want to prolong the moment. So we’d be doing him a favour.’

M. ‘You can if you want to. I’m staying here.’

Me. ‘Coward. What about you, D?’

D. ‘Well we’ve come all this way. Seems a shame not to try…’

Back home in England, you’d never get away with it because: a) it would be considered a touch infra dig, and b) he’d never present such an obvious sitting target for such a prolonged period of time. But here in Dubai, the rules are different. That’s what we’re calculating. Indeed, I think it’s secretly one of the main reasons my friends D, M and I decided to come to this Emirates Festival of Literature. To hang with The Mart. The great Martin Amis.

Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds pathetic. At least it will if you’re a girl. I haven’t met a girl on the entire planet — apart from his wife Isabel, of whom more later — who gets excited by The Mart to nearly the same degree as boys do. But that’s because The Mart doesn’t really do girls’ books. He writes books about foul characters called Keith, and darts, sports cars called Fiascos, and the fantastic breasts of aristocratic blonde 20-year-olds in Italian castles, with glorious show-off, willy-waggling sentences and fantastic adjectives like ‘rangy’. I don’t know why, exactly, but when you’re a boy — at least a boy of a certain generation — this sort of thing really hits the spot. You feel you’re in the presence of greatness and you want a bit of it to rub off on you, ideally by getting some sort of quality time with the man.

But how? Interviews don’t count — they’re too one-way, too much of a performance. Bumpings-into-at-parties don’t count either — they’re too fleeting and unsatisfactory, as I’ve discovered many times before. The first must have been in my late twenties, when I said: ‘People say I look a bit like you. Do you think I look like you?’ and I can’t remember what his reply was but it must have been pretty boring, otherwise I suppose I would remember it.

(to read more, click here)

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