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Friday, 17 January 2014

Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom?

In an article on the teaching of the First World War in The Daily Mail on 2nd January, 2014, Michael Gove wrote: “Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage. The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”


Gove then goes on to argue: "The First World War may have been a uniquely horrific war, but it was also plainly a just war. The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified.”

The Education Secretary says it is time to listen to historians such as Margaret Macmillan who has “demonstrated how those who fought were not dupes but conscious believers in king and country, committed to defending the western liberal order”.

Gove then goes on to attack Professor Sir Richard Evans, the Cambridge historian by claiming that he has argued that “the men who enlisted in 1914 may have thought they were fighting for civilisation, for a better world, a war to end all wars, a war to defend freedom: they were wrong”. Just to make sure that The Daily Mail readers will support his argument about Evans, he points out that he also writes for The Guardian

For the rest of the article see:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/spartacus-blog.html

Monday, 6 January 2014

Solomon Northup, Wikipedia and the 12 Years a Slave film.

In an article in yesterday's Guardian, the British director, Steve McQueen, of Oscar-tipped drama 12 Years a Slave, criticised Hollywood for a historical paucity of movies on slavery. The film is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup. McQueen argues the industry has largely ignored the subject of slavery. The article quotes an interview given by McQueen to Sky News: "The second world war lasted five years and there are hundreds and hundreds of films about the second world war and the Holocaust. Slavery lasted 400 years and there are less than 20 films. We have to redress that balance and look at that time in history."

The same is true of websites in the USA. Do a search at Google for "Solomon Northup" and see what you get. At the top you will get his Wikipedia entry. In its early days Google attempted to give you the best page at the top of its searches. With its reliance of "domain authority"the situation has changed. If Wikipedia has produced a page on a subject, it will appear at the top of any search. Google has a domain authority of 100. Whereas the Guardian has a score of only 96 (American newspapers are rated higher as this is Google's plan to allow its country to dominate mass communications). Even our top universities like Cambridge and Oxford only have domain authority ratings of 94. 

The Wikipedia entry is fairly detailed account of his life (this has been increased dramatically since the release of 12 Years a Slave). My problem with the entry for Solomon Northup is that it makes no attempt to capture what it was like to a slave in the United States. There is no excuse for this as Northup produced a magnificent memoir of his experiences.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASnorthup.htm

For the rest of the article see:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/spartacus-blog.html