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?
For perhaps 600 years, the patron saint of England - not Britain - has been Saint George. Before St George, there were several candidates for the position, including the last king of the ancient Saxon royal house, St Edward the Confessor, son of the disastrous King Ethelred the Unready. But St Edward was a monkish fellow, always praying, and never popular. Whereas St George, by repute, had slain a dragon on top of a well-known beauty spot in southern England. The fact that he was most likely an obscure third-century Roman, who had never been to the British Isles in his life, and is unlikely to have met a dragon, could be forgotten. He was heroic, he had a fine silver shield with a bold red cross on it, like a crusader. And the Londoners liked him and made him their own. When this author was a Wolf Cub and a Boy Scout in his childhood, he always had to march in the big St George’s Day parade, on the twenty-third day of this month !