History Proving a Touchy Subject in Britain

Historians in the News

LONDON — As the novelist George Orwell observed, he who controls the past controls the future, so it is perhaps not surprising that Orwell’s home country is the latest setting for a battle over what history is and how it is taught. In recent weeks, two conferences here have seen the polite tones of academic debate shattered as historians traded accusations of racism, dumbing down and just plain ignorance.

At the same time Michael Gove, the education minister, has been urged by some of the country’s most eminent historians to abandon his plan to revamp the way history is taught in schools.

David Starkey, the author of several books about Henry VIII and his wives and a frequent guest on British television programs, argued at a historians’ conference in London this month that schools ought to focus more on Britain’s “own culture.”...

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