Friday 14 August 2015


I didn't like history when I was at school. I couldn't see the point of it, it was just a boring, pointless, endless recitation of dates and events, with no rhyme or reason. And when I did my history O level, I got a grade H, which is the failest failure I could fail at.

For the next five years, it was mostly maths. Maths, a bit of physics and lots of bridge. It wasn't until I was 21 that I got interested in world war 2. WW2 happened just before I was born, but there was evidence of it all round me; adults would talk about it, and you could see the bomb sites. And it wasn't until I was five years old that sweet rationing ended.

The first history book I read was "The Second World War" by Winston Churchill. He's an excellent writer, and as Prime Minister at that time, he was in an excellent position to write about it. What I didn't realise at that time, that this is also an excellent reason why he would be biassed.

But it was an excellent book, and it got me interested in why that war happened. That, of course, led me to read about the Great War, which we now call World War 1. I hadn't known anything at all about it before then, because in school, history stopped in 1832. World war 1 was horrifying.

WW1 led me back to the Franco-Prussian war (and the US civil war), which led me back to ... and so on. I think people teach history the wrong way round. You shouldn't start with the ancient Britons and work forward; you should start with what happened yesterday, because that's relevant and interesting, and work backwards. Because the thing that links historical events is causation.

So now I read lots of history books, because history is interesting and important, and I'm currently reading Roy Jenkins' biography of Churchill, which brings me back to my first kindling of interest in history.

1 comment: