How accurate do you think history is?

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13/10/2012 at 22:29

As a catholic grammar school boy, I had never heard the term "Glorious Revolution" until I was in my twenties, but was vaguely aware of the dutch invasion and conquest. At the same time, the history text books categorically stated that England had not been invaded succesfully since 1066. I was reminded of this when listening to Michael Portillo's "Things we forgot to remember" the other day, when he clearly laid out the tale of the invasion and usurpation by William of Orange.

So, yes, those in charge write the version of history that they are comfortable with, and our collective "memory" is plastic.

14/10/2012 at 21:22


Bet your school never taught you that the Glorious Revolution had the full support of the Papacy and that William's Holland was part of an alliance that included the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Spain....

14/10/2012 at 21:51

All of them against France, with William's usurpation of the throne as a way of bringing our country into the conflict against France, rather than with them. As I studied the sciences, I did not continue with history, other than out of interest, but I was certainly aware of the untold damage done to Ireland, which was just starting to recover from the ravages of Elizabeth and Cromwell.

Edited: 14/10/2012 at 21:52
14/10/2012 at 22:22

James though was not exactly popular and the Dutch invasion had the support of much of England and Lowland Scotland.  Most supported Parliment over King.  Even the army that James had created and lavished a large part of the public purse on mutineed when ordered to oppose the Anglo Dutch invasion (a large part of the 'Dutch' army was English/lowland Scots).  Ireland's 'loss' was England and Lowland Scotland's gain.

15/10/2012 at 01:09

It will be interesting when this new Americanised Dambusters film, sorry movie, is released in the cinemas. Leuitenant Guy Gibson of the US Airforce single handedly taking on the Germans in American aircraft and saving us defencless Brits.

15/10/2012 at 09:36
Surrey Runner wrote (see)
Wild exagerations of numbers can be more recent and done deliberately. E.g the Nazis during the war and communists and neo Nazis after the war inflated the number of dead during the Dresden bombing by a factor of ten at the most extreme.

 Um...yes that's what I actually said SR. My point is that thay are usually revised at a later date.

15/10/2012 at 10:49

So History is to be taken with a large pinch of salt

15/10/2012 at 12:34
My point was that you didn't have to go that far back, for numbers to be wildly out and that numbers could be out due to deliberate manipulation rather than being put down to being unable to count. As was the case with Drseden, specifically the numbers made up by David Irving which many accepted until the last 15 years or so.
17/10/2012 at 11:17

History, or what we understand as 'popular history' is quite often a reflection of the here and now.  

I'll give you an example.  Academic researchers researching dusty archives are all after one thing; and that is funding to enable them to do academic research in dusty archives.  Where does the money come from? - well a variety of sources but in times of recession it is really hard to come by, believe me.   As a researcher you will encounter gatekeepers to this funding and they will quite often narrow the parameters of your research to reflect their own interests... so, do you see where we are going with this?

If you're thinking 'He (and it usually is a 'he') who pays the piper calls the tune' - you're not too far from the truth.

I'll give you an example

In 2014 Mr Cameron in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, in his wisdom is spending £50 million of your cash on events to commemorate the 'Great War' or WW1 as it's now called.  From a personal perspective I'm of the opinion that this is a war that should never be forgotten and it could be money well spent - but it should be spent for the right reasons.  I'm quite sure that this money will be spent in evoking a 'we were all in this together' type national unity version of the history of the first world war - there certainly will be little, if any, discussion of crtical narrative of the history of WW1.  

So, in general, you get the popular version of history the powerful pay for - real history is often done by learned amateurs with little money but lots of love for the subject. 

17/10/2012 at 11:25
Corinthian wrote (see)


So, in general, you get the popular version of history the powerful pay for - real history is often done by learned amateurs with little money but lots of love for the subject. 

Great contribution as ever, Corinth.  I guess you could also argue that if and when the little guy does come up with some useful research despite lack of funding, that little voice is less likely to be heard because it doesn't have the same platform or influence as the men in power getting their message across.  Not to mention that voice being actively suppressed in the first place, since the idea of a "free press" doesn't really apply to the vast majority of the time over which human history has been written.

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