Education


The History Boys

Many years ago, the head of the history department at my school was lecturing the pre-university class. Suddenly the door of the classroom burst open and the junior history master rushed in.

"You bastard!" he screamed. "You've been sleeping with my wife."

Within moments there was chaos. Blackboard dusters - the old wooden-backed ones - were flying. The two men were wrestling on the floor.

And then, suddenly, it stopped. The two men stood up, turned to the twenty-two very frightened boys, and told them: "Write down what happened." Unsurprisingly, they got twenty-two conflicting accounts.

"Now," said the head of the department, "what do you make of your primary sources?"

It is thanks to this lesson that I know that absolute historical truth does not exist, except in the mind of God - and of course, in the imagination of the historical novelist!

 

Did You Know?
As those who have read PARIS will know, the Parisian neighborhood of Les Halles, now known for its vast mall complex, was once the site of the Cimetière des Innocents, Paris’ largest cemetery. What started in the 12th century as a smallish graveyard ballooned to a resting place for over 2 million corpses ! By the 1780’s, the cemetery had become so overfilled and unhygienic that Louis XVI closed it, and ordered all bodies be exhumed and transferred to the Catacombs. Today, only one relic remains from the neighborhood’s eerie past - La Fontaine des Innocents – a fountain built in the sixteenth century which once marked the entrance to the graveyard.




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