Billy Bragg, the ineffably tiresome, millionaire Socialist singer songwriter thinks more left-wing history should be taught in schools. So does the ineffably tiresome, millionaire Socialist film director Mike Leigh…
The 'kings, queens and generals' history that we teach our kids in school glosses over the strong tradition of dissent in this country. Peterloo is just one example of Britain's secret history. It should be known and celebrated by all. https://t.co/Duceqe1uVG
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) August 16, 2018
But the bit about the Peterloo massacre not being taught just isn’t true.
I don't recognise the 'Kings, Queens and Generals' history teaching referenced here. History teachers I know cover Peterloo, dissent/protest – including Suffragettes, anti-Slavery movement, Chartists, civil rights etc. Respect for evidence please – no teacher bashing
— Dale Banham (@dale_banham) August 16, 2018
Nor is the nonsense about the ‘Kings, Queens and Generals’ being the dominant theme. If anything, the opposite is true. Old-fashioned narrative history celebrating the achievements of great men (and the occasional woman: hail to thee, Boudicca, Gloriana, Victoria…) has long since been supplanted by stuff pouring scorn on Western Civilisation and encouraging schoolchildren (white, English-speaking Christian ones, at any rate) to feel little but guilt and shame about their cultural heritage.
America suffers from the same problem, as New York governor Andrew Cuomo just helpfully reminded us when he said: “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”
No real conservative thinks this way. But almost everyone on the left does, as Harry Crocker notes here:
The Left now asserts that Robert E. Lee’s soldiers in gray were proto-Nazis; that Ulysses S. Grant’s soldiers in blue were genocidal Indian-killers; that America’s women still struggle against a colonial, patriarchal legacy of plantation owners in powdered wigs who kept their wives in comfortable confinement and their slaves as exploitable chattel; and that President Trump, far from being “a very stable genius,” which should be pretty obvious to everyone by now, is actually a moronic, unstable, but very clever agent of Vladimir Putin who quotes Mussolini in his sleep.
When it comes to American history (and sometimes Trump) how often have we seen putative “conservatives” falling over themselves to agree with the Left: furling Confederate flags and toppling Confederate statues as embarrassments; conceding that, yes, men like George Armstrong Custer were arrogant, bigoted, idiots from whose sins we should repent; and accepting a redefinition, never before known in human history, not just of marriage but of what it means to be a (now indefinable) man or a woman.
Indeed, anti-patriotism seems to be the prerequisite if you want to get on as a modern historian. Once I had to go on a BBC debate programme, where I was up against an Islamist who hated Britain, found nothing to recommend in our history and wanted us to become part of the Caliphate. Sitting next to me was a female historian who I’d hoped would take my side. But no, she too was keener to denigrate Britain’s past than to celebrate it.
Apart from being objectively untrue – the historical achievements of the Anglophone empires and their various scientists, inventors, writers, painters, explorers and warriors far, far outweigh their defects – this approach is also insidiously dangerous.
There’s a reason why young Victorians were raised on GA Henty novels with titles like Under Drake’s Flag and Winning His Spurs. The narrative of national pride filled young men and women with the confidence to go out and achieve extraordinary things on behalf of their great nation.
There’s a reason, too, why young Americans used to pledge allegiance to the flag.
We’re encouraged by the modern left to pour scorn on such outmoded jingoism. But it was nothing of the kind: just people uniting in love of their country and recognising that it was a cause worth fighting and dying for. The less you value your nation’s history and traditions, the less you feel they are worth defending. Such negativity is a recipe for decay and defeat. It’s so obvious, so well-documented that only a left wing historian could be deluded enough to imagine otherwise.