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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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March 12, 2011

In The Wonderfulness of Us in the London Review of Books Richard J. Evans explores the conservative view of history in the UK.

As is well known, conservatives start from the claim that the left's version of history trashes the past, shift to an emphasis on factual knowledge and what happened, and makes narrative (story telling) central and links this to national identity. Evans comments:

Gove, Schama and other advocates of the new Britain-centred narrative are all essentially proponents of the Whig interpretation of history, a theory exploded by professional historians more than half a century ago under the influence of Herbert Butterfield. Gove’s vision of ‘our island story’ is about examining the ‘struggles of the past’ to see how they brought about ‘the liberties of the present’. Similarly, Schama wants younger generations to ‘pass on the memory of our disputatious liberty’ to their descendants.The demand, really, is for a celebratory history: how otherwise could it serve as the cement of national identity?

What we have, in both the UK and Australia, is a narrowly nationalistic identity built on myths about the ‘British’ or 'Australia' past; one based on passive consumption rather than active critical engagement; on old-fashioned narratives without interpretation.

However, history is by its nature a critical, sceptical discipline. Historians commonly see one of their main tasks as puncturing myths, demolishing orthodoxies and exposing politically motivated narratives that advance spurious claims to objectivity.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:13 PM | | Comments (1)


I don't know if the anglo empire is quite done for yet.
That the locus has shifted from London the New York and Washington means fairly little in the end.
For us it means being a wealthy province in a large realm a little like Pax Romana, circa 150 CE. If there is a core we are closer to it and benefit currently in ways many in the third world couldn't dream of.
Relatively speaking, we are like Pompeii before geology intervened.