Simon Jenkins, A Short History of England
I find history talks at Cheltenham are always good value. Not from the monetary point of view, but from the wealth of information imparted by the speaker in such a short space of time. Simon Jenkins was no exception. In 40 minutes we were taken on a journey through the lanes of English history from the time the Romans left Britain to the present. His book ‘A Short History of England’ tells the story in 50,000 words. Comparing the teaching of history to a map of the London underground he said it was a case of everyone knows where the stations are but you are not quite sure how they all link together. This book sets out to remedy this. He mentioned key dates and events, 1066, Magna Carta, Battle of Agincourt and many many more giving informed opinion throughout.
Describing 14th to 16th century history as particularly interesting he highlighted the ongoing battle between Parliament and Monarch, the influence of religion as the country swayed between Protestant and Catholic. This was the period which underpinned the next few centuries which would prove to be perhaps less interesting as England exerted her power and influence on the world. This was a talk on England’s history, as opposed to incorporating that of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He commented on how our history was sometimes sanitised to highlight only victory and success and not the defeats, although they too were sometimes portrayed as ‘victories’.
Finally he brought the journey to a close mentioning the rich heritage of English Prime Ministers and Statesmen and how in his opinion England had fallen behind other countries as the 20th century had progressed.
An interesting mix of questions from the floor completed this excellent event.