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?
Potatoes were made illegal in France for 24 years ! The French became convinced that the South American vegetable could cause a whole host of diseases, including leprosy, so in 1748, the cultivation and consumption of potatoes was strictly outlawed. It wasn’t until an imprisoned medical army officer named Antoine Auguste Parmentier survived in his prison cell subsisting solely on a diet of potatoes that acceptance of the food began to shift. After being released from prison, Parmentier went on to write a thesis about its health benefits, helping to overturn the law and re-introduce the potato to the French public in 1772. Within 20 years, potatoes became one of the most popular, and indeed, important foods in France. Even the ornamental royal gardens in Tuileres Palace in Paris - originally filled with flowers and exotic plants - were converted into potato fields.