Untaught History

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Untaught History

Post by JQH » Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:07 pm

I've been thinking about how much of our history is censored, or ignored at the very least.

While we learn about the existence of the Atlantic slave trade we don't learn how much the economy of the country was tied up in it. And the enslaved Scottish coal miners lpm refers to don't get a mention.

We certainly aren't told about the political advances made by the English Commonwealth in the 1650s: abolition of the monarchy and House of Lords, written constitution & franchise extended beyond the landed gentry, abolition of the barbarism of hanging drawing and quartering. Can't have the proles thinking republicanism is a good idea I suppose.

The history of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms is largely skated over too. How many English people can name the first king of England?

Any others I've forgotten?
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Lew Dolby » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:06 pm

Thomas Paine hardly gets a mention.

We all get the Spanish Armada taught to us but hardly anyone knows about the English Armada to Spain the year later.

In England, most history in schools was (I'm 70 remember) all about England. Ask the average english person to name a handful of Scottish monarchs and they're sunk after 3 or 4 - and don't dare think of asking for dates of, say, David II. !!
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Re: Untaught History

Post by dyqik » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:15 pm

Lew Dolby wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:06 pm
Ask the average english person to name a handful of Scottish monarchs and they're sunk after 3 or 4.
James the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th... ;)

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Re: Untaught History

Post by JQH » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:21 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:15 pm
Lew Dolby wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:06 pm
Ask the average english person to name a handful of Scottish monarchs and they're sunk after 3 or 4.
James the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th... ;)

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Re: Untaught History

Post by dyqik » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:22 pm

JQH wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:21 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:15 pm
Lew Dolby wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:06 pm
Ask the average english person to name a handful of Scottish monarchs and they're sunk after 3 or 4.
James the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th... ;)

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Re: Untaught History

Post by lpm » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:47 pm

Even in my day schools had already turned away from lists of monarchs. We did neolithic, Roman Britain, 1066, reformation, industrial revolution (incl slavery), and a hell of a lot of 20th C - WW1 and USSR and Hitler and WW2.

The only significant gaps were civil war and empire.

My parents generation got a huge amount on empire - including celebrating Empire Day as a big event of parading and speeches - but obviously a rather distorted history. And they got all the bollocks about Wars of Roses and the like, which isn't history, it's just remembering a family tree and various squabbles. The idea of teaching children about Scottish monarchs is pretty silly, who gives a f.ck. Was Scotland ever noticeably changed by a particular monarch?

My school did a lot on slavery, but it was a slaving city and maybe the teachers were particularly interested.

The big advantage of history is you can learn a new section at any point in your life - it's not something that needs a teacher and lessons.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by JQH » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:52 pm

lpm wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:47 pm
...

The big advantage of history is you can learn a new section at any point in your life - it's not something that needs a teacher and lessons.
Oh indeed. Most of my knowledge of history has been acquired since I left school. The problem arises when you don't know what you don't know.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Gfamily » Tue Apr 13, 2021 6:38 pm

I'm very grateful for our Welsh Joint Edu Ctte O level History Syllabus that covered (mostly) European history from 1870 to 1967.

This gave a decent background to much of modern history, starting with the end of the Franco Prussian War (and the Paris Commune), the unification of Germany and Italy, Russia and its Revolution,
European empire building and the path to WWI.
America and the failure of the League of Nations
The interwar years and the growth of fascism,
The post war growth of the UN and new European structures.
Ending up with some coverage of the Middle East, primarily related to Egypt and Israel, ending with the Yom Kippur war.
Considering this was being given in the early to mid 70s, it was pretty good at giving a feel for how relevant history can be.

I'm not a historian, but I can see how historians look at things (we're quite pleased that one of the History teachers at our children's school asked which of us was the historian)

I can't remember which of the Thatcher era Education Secretaries decided that school history education should not cover issues of "Current Affairs" - but honestly, what's the f.cking point of history otherwise?
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Tessa K » Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:07 pm

JQH wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:07 pm
I've been thinking about how much of our history is censored, or ignored at the very least.

While we learn about the existence of the Atlantic slave trade we don't learn how much the economy of the country was tied up in it. And the enslaved Scottish coal miners lpm refers to don't get a mention.

We certainly aren't told about the political advances made by the English Commonwealth in the 1650s: abolition of the monarchy and House of Lords, written constitution & franchise extended beyond the landed gentry, abolition of the barbarism of hanging drawing and quartering. Can't have the proles thinking republicanism is a good idea I suppose.

The history of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms is largely skated over too. How many English people can name the first king of England?

Any others I've forgotten?
Athelstan was the first king of England. I like him, he gets overshadowed by his grandfather Alfred but he arguably achieved a lot more. We did a lot on Anglo-Saxon agriculture at school. Crop rotation and all that kind of thing. Also, trial by ordeal. The fun stuff.

It's the period between Alfred and the Norman Conquest that is largely ignored. And then there's a gap between the 11th and 15th century with the odd exception (eg the Black Death, the Crusades but rarely in all their corrupt detail). Then there's a gap between the late 17th and mid 18th (William & Mary, Anne, the first two Georges) then interest revives with Victoria.

And that's just the monarchy, let alone all the social, technological and scientific changes in those periods.

At my school we had to choose between history and geography O level. I did geography, which meant my history education ended at 14. I chose geography because history O level was about World War 2, which didn't interest me. I have subsequently read a lot though.

It's not just schools who skip over parts of history. Documentaries on TV focus on the 'popular' bits - do we really need another programme about the Tudors, Romans and Vikings? Now and then there will be programmes about the history of Wales or Scotland but they largely focus on kings and battles.

As for the long and mostly appalling history of the English in Ireland, that pretty much never gets mentioned.

I'm not a fan of the 'reconstruction' type series eg the Victorian Farm or a Mediaeval Christmas as they are often more about the presenters making fools of themselves.

Of course, an honourable nod should go to Horrible Histories.

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Re: Untaught History

Post by Gfamily » Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:55 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:07 pm

At my school we had to choose between history and geography O level. I did geography, which meant my history education ended at 14. I chose geography because history O level was about World War 2, which didn't interest me. I have subsequently read a lot though.
I went to a church comprehensive school whereas my secular friends went to the local Grammar school.
At age 15 we were discussing our O-level work loads.
They were expected to take 7 O levels, and had had to make similar choices to you, though in their case it was mainly between humanities and sciences.
They were dumbstruck at the fact I was doing 3 sciences, history and geography, and French on top of the 'standard' maths and English literature.

I'd have been taking 9 sets of exams that summer if the school hadn't offered English language a year early to its top set.

I'm very grateful to our school.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by warumich » Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:02 pm

In case it's of interest, my German history teaching had the usual antiquity / Roman stuff (though the Roman lessons focused on the Romans in Rome, rather than the ones that made it halfway up Germany, which was mentioned of course); the collapse of the empire and the kingdoms that were set up in the aftermath, with a focus on Charlemagne's empire; the collapse of that empire and establishment of the Holy Roman one, crusades and sh.t, reformation and 30 years war, the slow collapse of the Holy Roman empire (a bit hazy on the 18th century because nobody understands it, but the rise and collapse of the Prussian sub-empire gets mentioned), then Napoleon and the final collapse of the Holy Roman empire, 1871 and the establishment of the Kaiser Wilhelm empire, WW1 and the eventual collapse of that empire, then of course lots and lots about the Nazis, and their collapse. All with an occasional side-look at the long drawn out collapse of the Austrian empire. Not much post-war history.

Basically German history is about empires collapsing.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Little waster » Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:54 pm

Gfamily wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 6:38 pm

with the end of the Franco Prussian War (and the Paris Commune), the unification of Germany and Italy, Russia and its Revolution,
European empire building and
the path to WWI.
America and the failure of the League of Nations
The interwar years and the growth of fascism,
The post war growth of the UN and new European structures.
Ending up with some coverage of the Middle East, primarily related to Egypt and Israel, ending with the Yom Kippur war.
FTFM
I can't remember which of the Thatcher era Education Secretaries decided that school history education should not cover issues of "Current Affairs" - but honestly, what's the f.cking point of history otherwise?
And that will be why.

Essentially we did England from the Stone Age to the end of the English Civil War and then picked up in the aftermath of the Great Reform Act with no understanding how we ended up as the "United Kingdom", Constitutional Monarchy or a Parliamentary Democracy, where the Empire had come from (and in the case of the US, gone) or what the big deal about the Non-Conformists was.
Scotland, Wales and Ireland were footnotes other than when they impacted on England.
Europe may as well not exist and the ROW only made an appearance when they either joined the Empire or rebelled against it; it is telling I can probably tell you more about the siege of Khartoum than the entire Holy Roman Empire.

The Cold War, the EEC, Suez, the UN, decolonialisation, Israel-Palestine, the Welfare State, the Troubles etc*. may as well have happened in Narnia for all we learnt about it.

*you know all the stuff that may be of some relevance to a teenager trying to figure out why the world is the way it is in the late 80s and early 90s.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Allo V Psycho » Wed Apr 14, 2021 2:02 pm

Gfamily wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:55 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:07 pm

At my school we had to choose between history and geography O level. I did geography, which meant my history education ended at 14. I chose geography because history O level was about World War 2, which didn't interest me. I have subsequently read a lot though.
I went to a church comprehensive school whereas my secular friends went to the local Grammar school.
At age 15 we were discussing our O-level work loads.
They were expected to take 7 O levels, and had had to make similar choices to you, though in their case it was mainly between humanities and sciences.
They were dumbstruck at the fact I was doing 3 sciences, history and geography, and French on top of the 'standard' maths and English literature.

I'd have been taking 9 sets of exams that summer if the school hadn't offered English language a year early to its top set.

I'm very grateful to our school.
I was in a Boys Brigade company in a posh area of Glasgow, though I came from the council estate up the road. ALL the other boys went to Glasgow High, so wore brown blazers, in clear distinction to my blue one from Bash Street Comprehensive*. One of them was bragging about his brother passing four Highers, at AAAB. I told him my big sister had just passed five, with AAAAA. He asked me which school she went to (the same one as me), and he looked puzzled for a moment, then his face cleared. "Ah", he said, "You people sit easier Highers than we do".

*Spoiler:

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Re: Untaught History

Post by Fishnut » Wed Apr 14, 2021 3:33 pm

JQH wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:07 pm
I've been thinking about how much of our history is censored, or ignored at the very least.
I think there's a simplistic answer and a more complicated one.

The simplistic answer is that a lot of history isn't taught for the same reason that a lot of biology or geography or maths isn't taught - there's far too much to cover. If we're talking about formal history education at school then we're looking at about an average of 45-60 minutes per week (according to this survey by the Historical Association) for primary schools and maybe 90-120 minutes per week for secondary students (the report is very vague but says most schools offer "more than 75 minutes of history teaching a week", which I'm guessing is 2-3 lessons a week) so you're looking at maybe 40 hours per year for 7 years of primary education and double that for the 2 years in secondary education for the majority of students who don't take history at GCSE, giving a grand total of 440 hours or about 7 school days each year.

The history curricula for Key Stages 1-2 and Key Stages 3-4 require British history to be covered from the stone age up to the 20th century, and world history to be explored in some way. That's a lot to cover in not much time. The surveys referenced above show that teachers feel they have too much to cover, not enough time and are under-resourced. Well-trodden topics like Ancient Egypt (which I remember learning about when I was in primary school) are still covered because "it was featured in all previous versions of the history national curriculum and is already very well-resourced and familiar to primary teachers" - teachers don't have the time and resources to go and create exciting new curricula that explore the complexities of their subject in an accessible way.

If we leave school and look more at how British history is perceived more broadly, I think there's still a tendency towards the Great Man approach. This is a relic of Victorian approaches to history which left academia decades ago and are slowly changing more broadly, though there still seems to be a popular perception that history is about significant people and learning dates (I can't help but think our love of pub quizzes helps maintain this - far easier to ask "who invented the spinning jenny?" than "what were the consequences of industrialisation on women in rural England?").

In terms of history being censored or ignored, I think it's fair to say that, with a few exceptions, there is no government-led censorship of our history going on, at least in terms of what is researched. What is allowed to escape the academic bubble could arguably be said to be censored, or at least heavily curated and who is curating and what they are attempting to achieve by that curation are valid questions. Obviously broadcasters want to make programmes that get watched, which may lead them to tread the familiar ground of Henry VIII on what feels like a perpetual loop. But there are a lot of thought-provoking shows out there if you look for them. BBC 4 (RIP) has done a lot of documentaries on more marginalised aspects of history and there's a vast array of books out there on all sorts of subjects. There's also a lot of talks. One of the very few good things about the pandemic is the way it's moved talks online, so that people can attend more easily. At the weekend I attended a HistFest talk titled "Disability in the Industrial Revolution: Pitmen, Politicians, Activists and Artists" which was fascinating. I've also signed up for the following free talks which may be of interest to others:

Slavery in the age of memory: Britain, France and the United States 21 April, 16:00 - 18:00

Rewriting history? Heritage, Rurality and Empire 29 April, 17:30 - 18:30

Colonial Countryside, Heritage Research and the Culture War 5 May, 17:30 - 19:00

If anything I'd argue that we are living in a period of history where our past is at its most accessible to the general public and we have the greatest opportunity to critique and challenge the accepted narrative. It's not a surprise that countries try to shape their history to ensure it paints them in the best light possible. But the research is out there providing different perspectives and a good amount of that research is written in ways that's accessible to lay audiences. So I think that while a lot of our history is untaught in the formal sense, that's no different to any other subject, and there are a wealth of resources available to us to fill any gaps we feel need filling. All we have to do is want to fill them.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by bagpuss » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:07 pm
Of course, an honourable nod should go to Horrible Histories.
I have, without any exaggeration, learned a significantly broader range of history from Horrible Histories than I ever did at school. The You're Dead to Me podcast (essentially the grown up version of HH) is taking it considerably further.

My school history seemed to be almost entirely about England between roughly 1790 and 1918. There was a little bit about Tudors thrown in in juniors and some interesting stuff about indigenous Australians in secondary school, and there must have been a little bit about Romans covered somewhere but very little.

The rest of Britain was mostly ignored and, with the notable exception of Australia as mentioned, anywhere outside Europe might as well just not have existed.

From what I have seen of the current KS1 and KS2 curricula, although various time periods are better covered, the concentration on English history hasn't greatly improved, although the Romans and the Ancient Egyptians do get good coverage, which is something.

Fishnut's point about there being far too much to cover properly is a very good one. And actually, I should credit the couple of terms I had at secondary school where we were taught about finding and assessing historical evidence and coming to conclusions on the basis of what information is available, prioritising higher quality sources, etc. That is probably the most important thing to teach in that it starts to give kids the skills they need to go off and learn more for themselves.

One thing that I personally would have found useful to learn - and the bagkitten too has mentioned she'd like something similar - is a very broad brush overview of a timeline of world history. It really could only ever be broad brush because but I think even a very simplistic idea would put so much into perspective, understanding what was happening in various parts of the world at different times, how the major civilisations we know about overlapped or didn't with each other, and so on. Then that would start to give you an idea of the what we don't know we don't know that JQH mentions, as all the huge gaps in what we learn would be more obvious.

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Re: Untaught History

Post by bagpuss » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:04 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 3:33 pm
I've also signed up for the following free talks which may be of interest to others:

Slavery in the age of memory: Britain, France and the United States 21 April, 16:00 - 18:00

Rewriting history? Heritage, Rurality and Empire 29 April, 17:30 - 18:30

Colonial Countryside, Heritage Research and the Culture War 5 May, 17:30 - 19:00
Thank you for those. I have belatedly found that now that learning history no longer requires the writing of essays, I am actually very interested in it (thanks again to HH).

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Re: Untaught History

Post by JQH » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:08 pm

bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm


One thing that I personally would have found useful to learn - and the bagkitten too has mentioned she'd like something similar - is a very broad brush overview of a timeline of world history. It really could only ever be broad brush because but I think even a very simplistic idea would put so much into perspective, understanding what was happening in various parts of the world at different times, how the major civilisations we know about overlapped or didn't with each other, and so on. Then that would start to give you an idea of the what we don't know we don't know that JQH mentions, as all the huge gaps in what we learn would be more obvious.
I have a book which does exactly that: The Pelican History of the World by J.M. Roberts. My paperback edition was published in 1980. Don't know if there's anything more recent.
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Tessa K » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:12 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 3:33 pm
JQH wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:07 pm
I've been thinking about how much of our history is censored, or ignored at the very least.
I think there's a simplistic answer and a more complicated one.

The simplistic answer is that a lot of history isn't taught for the same reason that a lot of biology or geography or maths isn't taught - there's far too much to cover.

If anything I'd argue that we are living in a period of history where our past is at its most accessible to the general public and we have the greatest opportunity to critique and challenge the accepted narrative. It's not a surprise that countries try to shape their history to ensure it paints them in the best light possible. But the research is out there providing different perspectives and a good amount of that research is written in ways that's accessible to lay audiences. So I think that while a lot of our history is untaught in the formal sense, that's no different to any other subject, and there are a wealth of resources available to us to fill any gaps we feel need filling. All we have to do is want to fill them.
You're right that school history can't cover everything. It's not just which eras or people it does cover as much as how - as you say, the Great Man approach or the Kings and Queens and Battles approach. It would be helpful to have a class or two a year with the bigger picture though.

Yes, there is a lot of accessible history online but some people are put off it by dull school lessons or don't know where to start or they'd rather just watch The Crown. I did mention Horrible Histories in a kind of flippant way above but I do believe the show (and the books) do good work to whet young people's appetites to find out more, especially about what daily life was like for ordinary people.

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Re: Untaught History

Post by dyqik » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:17 pm

JQH wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:08 pm
bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm


One thing that I personally would have found useful to learn - and the bagkitten too has mentioned she'd like something similar - is a very broad brush overview of a timeline of world history. It really could only ever be broad brush because but I think even a very simplistic idea would put so much into perspective, understanding what was happening in various parts of the world at different times, how the major civilisations we know about overlapped or didn't with each other, and so on. Then that would start to give you an idea of the what we don't know we don't know that JQH mentions, as all the huge gaps in what we learn would be more obvious.
I have a book which does exactly that: The Pelican History of the World by J.M. Roberts. My paperback edition was published in 1980. Don't know if there's anything more recent.
Maybe Bill Bryson could do a similar book in the style of A Brief History of Nearly Everything or The Body?

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Re: Untaught History

Post by Fishnut » Wed Apr 14, 2021 5:27 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:12 pm
I did mention Horrible Histories in a kind of flippant way above but I do believe the show (and the books) do good work to whet young people's appetites to find out more, especially about what daily life was like for ordinary people.
I meant to reference your reference to Horrible Histories but forgot - I love Horrible Histories and the books were definitely my gateway drug into realising that history was interesting. I've been catching up on the tv series now it's on Netflix and it's really quite excellent. As you say, it whets the appetite.
bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm
One thing that I personally would have found useful to learn - and the bagkitten too has mentioned she'd like something similar - is a very broad brush overview of a timeline of world history
I remember having a big book of world history that had a timeline running along the bottom of the page and different colours for different parts of the world. As it was produced in the 90s it had a very western perspective but I remember it being great for flicking through as it was clearly written with lots of nice photos. A bit of googling suggests it may have been an old edition of this.

There's also things like The History of the World in 100 Objects which is available as a book and a podcast series.
bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm
The You're Dead to Me podcast (essentially the grown up version of HH) is taking it considerably further.
You're Dead to Me is excellent - the episode on the Chevalier de Saint-Georges honestly blew my mind. That was a true example of censoring history and writing people out - the equal of Mozart erased from history because he was Black.

There's a huge number of really excellent history podcasts out there. A few I'd recommend:

Z List Dead List - about obscure people in history

History Extra podcast - it has a slightly annoying format in that it likes to do an intro before the guest is introduced and then before the midpoint advert does a "coming up", but they have interviews with historians about all aspects of history. A couple of recent episodes worth checking are The Clifford’s Tower massacre & medieval anti-Semitism, and To beard or not to beard? Facial hair through history.

National Archives podcast - talks by historians doing research based around the national archives. The quality is variable but the good ones are excellent and I've learned a lot about British history from the medieval pipe rolls right up to mid-20th century attitudes to homosexuality.

Behind the Bastards - one that is a bit different to the others, and that I'd only recommend if you have a high tolerance for swearing and crudity, but is hugely informative if you do. It looks at awful people, not always historical (they've done Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh for example) but it's consistently fascinating and horrifying. The recent two-parter "The family that stole Malaysia" is one I'd recommend as it's all about a British family who ruled Sarawak between 1841 and 1946 (and no, that's not a typo - they really ruled into the 20th century).
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Gfamily » Wed Apr 14, 2021 5:28 pm

JQH wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:08 pm
bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:01 pm


One thing that I personally would have found useful to learn - and the bagkitten too has mentioned she'd like something similar - is a very broad brush overview of a timeline of world history. It really could only ever be broad brush because but I think even a very simplistic idea would put so much into perspective, understanding what was happening in various parts of the world at different times, how the major civilisations we know about overlapped or didn't with each other, and so on. Then that would start to give you an idea of the what we don't know we don't know that JQH mentions, as all the huge gaps in what we learn would be more obvious.
I have a book which does exactly that: The Pelican History of the World by J.M. Roberts. My paperback edition was published in 1980. Don't know if there's anything more recent.
From a similar era (mid 80s I guess - revised edition '93) - Modern World History Made Simple

Though of course, history changes over time - issues are reinterpreted, and 'facts' change, so these give a 'then' view of the past, and the past is likely to have changed since then.

One of the problems with claims of 'the politicisation of history' is that people who learned their history between the ages of 12 and 21 often don't realise that it is inevitably going to be revised, and people who learn their politics from the history they are taught, are likely to resent being told that they have things wrong.
My avatar was a scientific result that was later found to be 'mistaken' - I rarely claim to be 100% correct
ETA 5/8/20: I've been advised that the result was correct, it was the initial interpretation that needed to be withdrawn
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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Apr 14, 2021 5:36 pm

For a very clear overview of which civilisations were where, when, you can do a lot worse than Bill Wurz's History of the Entire World, which is 20 mins long and on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuCn8ux2gbs
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Tessa K
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Re: Untaught History

Post by Tessa K » Wed Apr 14, 2021 6:00 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 5:27 pm

There's also things like The History of the World in 100 Objects which is available as a book and a podcast series.
I recently bought the book after listening to a few episodes repeated on Radio 4 (yes, I am old school). I'm only a few objects in and it's fascinating although some of his comments on early human development is a bit too speculative. I bought the paperback as a present for a friend but it got a bit dented in the post so I kept it - which I would have been tempted to do anyway.

This is fiction but Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor* has a lot of real history about the Irish famine, the coffin ships to America and English behaviour in Ireland before and during the Famine. Sometimes a well-written piece of historical fiction can be a gateway. It's not a cheerful read but it's beautifully written and very informative, including some real letters and documents.


*brother of Sinead

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Re: Untaught History

Post by bagpuss » Wed Apr 14, 2021 10:32 pm

Thanks for all the book and podcast recommendations - will look them all up tomorrow

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Re: Untaught History

Post by individualmember » Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:31 am

TBH, I remember very little about history at school, it’s really just a bunch about the Roman occupation of England and a bit about the English Civil War. For O level I had to choose between History and Geography and I chose Geography. So I learned mostly from TV, probably starting with The World At War series and James Burke’s Connections (loved that, still got it on dvd, still shout to whoever’s in the house come here and see the best timed piece to camera in tv ever), then as a trainee at the Beeb in the 80s I watched Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series and Bronowski’s The Ascent Of Man series and I Clavdivs several times each* before moving on to reading books about history.

So my knowledge is very patchy but i think it shows that poor coverage of history in schools isn’t necessary a problem, the trick is to engender enough interest in learning that people continue with it when long out of the education system.

*that was a period when tv programme sales meant copies of programmes meant someone had to copy them from tape while watching for technical problems. Most trainees - ‘boooooooring’, me - ‘sure, I’ll get that done by tomorrow afternoon’ (thinks ‘I’m getting paid to watch telly, how lucky am I’). I watched all the BBC Shakespeare adaptations as well :D

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