We Should Keep Rewriting History: Our ‘Island Story' Is Not Set In Stone
BBC History Magazine|October 2020
We Should Keep Rewriting History: Our ‘Island Story' Is Not Set In Stone
I had made up my mind not to talk about the ‘Life in the UK’ British history test. Earlier this summer, 181 historians and authors had their say about its factual inaccuracies; about the lack of social history; the omission of black history; the downplaying of Britain’s role in the slave trade. But this, in a real sense, represents the ‘official’ narrative of our history. When the prime minister said, in response to the fall of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, “we cannot pretend to have a different history”, we have to assume that this is what he means.

It all jogged a memory. In 2011, I did a talk at a history conference about one of our TV series, in which we took a single village, Kibworth in Leicestershire, through British history. This was history seen through a single community: bottom up, not top down; the people, not the rulers. At the time, the new Conservative-led coalition government was revising the history curriculum: they’d done the same after the 1979 election, then rejecting the ‘Marxist’ approach of EP Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Rodney Hilton, which had been so important in my student days.

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October 2020