A lesson in Horrible Histories

Share this article

May I say how much I agree with Sarah Hall in last week’s Guardian that history, despite being looked on as a dull subject, “in reality it is the most fascinating thing in the world.”

But, so much depends upon those who teach it!

I can still recall the first history lesson I had when I was evacuated to Thornes House Grammar back in 1944. It was about monasteries, their design and layout, and how the people, who were not always monks, actually lived there.

It was years later that I was able to appreciate the very fine monastery ruins we have here in Yorkshire, due very much to what I recalled from those lessons.

When I went back to London I was taught history by a fiery Left-wing Welshman, although I didn’t appreciate how Left-wing he was until years later! His forte was the social and political history of the 19th century, and I learned how our modern democracy was laid down through Parliamentary social and reform legislation from about 1830 onwards, extending those who could vote in our elections from a few hundred thousand land-owners, to the 42 million voters of today.

The last real change was of course votes for women, which wasn’t settled until 1929. Parliament actually stopped girls legally marrying at 12 years old, before all women over 21 were given the right to vote. As Sarah rightly says, “fascinating!”

Even those of us who investigate our family history will come across much that leads us to a greater understanding of our nations’ history, as well as our family history, and where we all fit in, because although, in school, we are taught history very much through major dates, kings, queens, political leaders etc, those are just reference points on a much wider canvas.

The real history of our country is down to the lives, deeds, activities, and opinions, of millions of ordinary folk over the centuries. Led, or perhaps not, by the major figures, the people have had an increasing influence, and control, over our history as time has gone on, and how we have achieved that is, “fascinating.” The sad thing is we don’t understand, or value it enough.

The factually correct, Horrible Histories, which my grandson finds hilarious, are a good step on the way, but perhaps we should get away from tendency to a fixation with the Third Reich, as important as that is in the way it has shaped our lives, and our opinions, in the past 50 years. Although there are still a lot of us around who were bombed in our homes by them, there is a much wider history to be learned, and understood, to lead us into the future!


Cornmill Lane