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How the culture wars came for history Woke historians want to expose lies about the past — even when they don't exist


May 28, 2021   7 mins

If you’ve seen The Matrix, you’ll remember the moment when Keanu Reeves’s Neo wakes to find himself in a ghastly metal pod, naked, covered with slime and wired up to some sort of hellish Alien-style equipment. Enslaved by intelligent machines, mankind has been turned into a giant collective battery, our minds pacified with a soothing simulation. What most of us take to be reality is a lie, a construct, the product of a diabolical conspiracy. Neo’s job is to restore the truth.

The Matrix is more than two decades old, but its underlying message is very familiar. You are asleep, but I am awake. You are blind, but I can see. You are backward, but I am progressive. You may have come to a nice country house for a cup of tea, a stroll around the gardens and a mooch in the gift shop, but I am going to wake you up. Look around you! Stop listening to the lies! Read some real history! Educate yourself!

In his new book Fake History, the anti-Brexit firebrand Otto English sets out to educate his benighted compatriots — those of you, in other words, who have been wandering in a stupor all these years. For the last thousand years, he explains, history “has been written by white males, about white males, for white males”. Like The Matrix’s machines, these sinister frauds have created a colossal deception, a “fake” past, a tissue of “false narratives”. But now English is on the case, determined to expose the “ten great lies” that have shaped our world. “Fake history runs deep,” he writes grandly. “This book’s mission is to topple it from the plinth and lift up truth in its place.”

In The Matrix, Neo is merely part of a bigger rebel group, led by Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus. And English, too, operates as part of a bigger movement. For although his book makes no mention of it, he is not the first person to notice that our history is a tissue of lies. The BBC’s Lucy Worsley, for example, has made several series about British History’s Biggest Fibs, including revelations such as the discovery that the Prussians helped Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, and the fact that Richard III might not actually have been a hunchbacked monster after all. And another tireless hunter for historical truth, the Horrible Histories author Terry Deary, has consistently maintained that schoolteachers and academics mislead their charges. The people who really made our world, he insists, are hidden from us. “We don’t usually know their names and there are no statues to them — not even grave markers — and they are ignored by most proper historians in proper history books.”

So have history teachers really been lying to us? Have historians been deceiving us all along? And has Otto English really found the smoking guns?

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but it strikes me that if you’re writing a book about “ten great lies” called Fake History, you probably ought to use your real name. In fact, Otto English is the Twitter handle of a journalist, Andrew Scott, who has attracted some 70,000 followers with his relentless attacks on Brexit. I’m not really his target audience, but I’m perfectly happy to accept that he’s a dab hand at writing 140-character takedowns of Boris Johnson. But as a historian, a seeker for truth, a fearless exposer of lies about our past, he is an utter, utter failure.

Far from being a ground-breaking exposé of dishonesty and deceit, Fake History is one of the worst books about history I’ve ever read — and I say that as somebody who made it all the way through Jacob Rees-Mogg’s The Victorians. To give a small but revealing example, one chapter debunks the supposed lie that “Genghis Khan was a pitiless barbarian”. In fact, says English, he was “a far-sighted and accommodating leader”, both “meritocratic” and “inclusive”, which makes him sound like somebody hoping to lead the Liberal Democrats. Throughout, English calls him “Khan”, clearly under the impression that this was his surname. But Khan was his imperial title, not his name. It’s as if a Mongolian Twitter personality wrote a book about German history under the misapprehension that Wilhelm II’s surname was “Kaiser”.

The structure, veering madly from subject to subject, makes no sense. There’s a chapter on Churchill, then a chapter about whether ancient people thought the earth was flat, then a chapter about Dunkirk, then a chapter about the House of Windsor, then a chapter about curry, then a chapter about the Aztecs. But even inside each chapter there’s no sense of analysis or argument, just a series of self-satisfied observations and weird generalisations. In the chapter on curry, for example, English sets out to debunk the supposed lie that “curry comes from India”, but immediately tells us that in post-war Britain “most people ate shit… Most British people stewed the living taste out of everything.”

Now, I can see why you’d say that in a stand-up routine — but in a book about nuance in history? In a book attacking myths and stereotypes? Really?

The fundamental problem, though, is that none of English’s ten great lies are actually lies. His first lie, for example is: “Winston Churchill was Britain’s Greatest Prime Minister.” But that’s not really a lie, is it? How could you possibly prove or disprove it? It’s an opinion, which is completely different. You might disagree with Churchill’s fans, but it would be deranged to call them liars. For instance, when Churchill died in 1965, his old rival Clement Attlee said he was not just “the greatest Englishman of our time” but “the greatest citizen of the world of our time”. If Attlee came back to life and repeated those words today, would English seriously call him a liar?

Or take another of English’s purported lies: “Hitler was a failed artist.” You might raise an eyebrow at that. Opening my copy of Sir Ian Kershaw’s biography, I read that Hitler had a blazing row with his father about his ambition to become an artist; that he twice applied and failed to get into Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts; and that he tried to make money by painting scenes of Vienna. And to cap it all, on page 73 of my edition, Kershaw, one of Britain’s greatest living historians, explicitly describes Hitler as — you guessed it — a “failed artist”. So would English call Kershaw a liar, too?

The weird thing is that English knows Hitler was a failed artist. He even mentions the paintings and the unsuccessful attempts to get into the Academy. His chapter is trying to say something about Hitler’s invention of his own legend — though I’m not sure what. After some stuff about the First World War, he tells us how terrible Mein Kampf is — as if anybody needs convincing — before informing us that Hitler was a dreadful artist and a diabolical commander. Then he compares him with Enoch Powell and Donald Trump, which is clearly what he’s been itching to do all along. And that’s it. Next lie please!

I could go through English’s book page by page, but what would be the point? It’s so shoddy, so abject I feel a bit guilty even writing about it, like a grown man punching a toddler. Yet it’s important not to let it go. People don’t generally tell lies about history, and the real dishonesty lies in pretending that they do.

Of course all societies have myths, and they always have done. But a myth isn’t the same as a lie, unless you are seriously going to argue that all societies since the Egyptians and the Persians have been barefaced liars. Is it a “lie”, as English suggests, that the Little Ships were crucial at Dunkirk? Surely not. At worst, it’s an exaggeration, a patriotic myth, central to the national narrative both at the time and afterwards. And in any case, there are already hundreds, perhaps even thousands of history books putting Dunkirk into a wider context, and gently debunking the Little Ships story. Is English really so arrogant that he thinks he’s breaking new ground?

Anyway, if a schoolteacher tells the Little Ships story to her charges, so what? Is she a liar? Or is she simply a good storyteller, trying to find the right way to draw a class of ten-year-olds into the study of the past? What about professional historians? They’re not really liars, are they? Yes, they weave their facts into narratives, wear their prejudices very heavily, and sometimes make tendentious claims. But that’s what historical debate is all about. Was Edward Gibbon a liar? Were the historians who wrote in the Victorian era? Were Marxists like Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill? Of course not.

Even politicians, English’s chief target, don’t really lie about history, whatever the Twitter fanatics may think. Of course politicians pick their facts and tell their stories. But that’s the essence of political communication. To win, you build a narrative. A pluralistic society depends upon competing narratives and competing myths. You can disagree with a particular interpretation of the nation’s past — Margaret Thatcher’s paean to the Victorian period, say, or Boris Johnson’s Churchill-worship — without calling it a lie. After all, who but a fraud claims to have a monopoly on the truth?

This is why books such as Fake History are so depressing. They are the historical equivalent of conspiracy theories, purporting to uncover some hidden, monolithic, indisputable truth. Puffed up with smug self-satisfaction, they reflect a culture that seems increasingly incapable of dealing with democratic disagreement, in which opponents are “gammons”, “melts”, plotters and liars. They deal in the language of certainty, fakery and propaganda, without acknowledging that historical interpretations change all the time, and that ours will seem as prejudiced and partial to our successors as Victorian history books do to us. And though they appeal for “nuance” and “complexity”, their hectoring tone and moralistic assumptions could hardly be more adolescent.

But I suppose Otto English isn’t really writing for me. He’s writing for people who think that history is a simple matter of truth and lies, and that either you’re on the side of good and honesty, or you’re on the side of deception and evil. So if you think Churchill was Britain’s greatest Prime Minister, as Roy Jenkins did; or that there’s such a thing as English food, as George Orwell did, then you must be a liar or a dupe.

For English, as for so many woke activists, it’s all very simple. You’re awake, or you’re asleep. You’re progressive, or you’re reactionary. You think Rhodes Must Fall, or you like having sex with statues. You can see, or you’re blind. You’re with Neo, or you’re with the machines.

But I’m one of the machines, so you shouldn’t trust a word I say anyway.


Dominic Sandbrook is an author, historian and UnHerd columnist. His latest book is: Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982

dcsandbrook

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

‘The BBC’s Lucy Worsley, for example, has made several series about British History’s Biggest Fibs, including revelations such as the discovery that the Prussians helped Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo,’
I have known since I was about five years old that it was the arrival of Blucher and the Prussians that more or less won the Battle of Waterloo. This is hardly a ‘revelation’.

Mike Feilden
Mike Feilden
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

What you’ve got to remember about Lucy Worsley and her ilk is that they’re not really historians, they just ‘wanna be on the telly’ and have convinced the program makers they’ve got something new to say, whereas, to quote Harry S Truman, the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Feilden

You’re right. I’m just squeezing this in in defence of Worsley – she, and Neil Oliver, are two of the extremely few TV personalities i find watchable. Of course she has to tack the obligatory “red tail” onto whatever program she does (today’s BBC is very much like communist-bloc TV was in the seventies), but that aside she makes good TV. Plus she looks good in full Tudor garb. (Well, everybody does.)

Mike Feilden
Mike Feilden
2 years ago

Got to disagree with you about Ms Worsley – she just loves the dressing-up box and being the center of attention – nothing to do with history.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago

She has to toe the BBC line. One thing they often do is find the only person in England who , say, ate a pineapple in the 13th century. Suddenly its claimed pineapples were widely available & Captain Cook wasn’t innovative in making his sailors eat limes to stop scurvy. They are a bit like Shakespeare’s History plays which used history accounts which favoured the Tudors. All history is interpretation , but it becomes fable if its stretched totally out of shape.Also if you start out with the idea that someone like say Trump is an evil N-you are not going to be very nuanced. I find Lucy rather irritating.

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

The “Trump Nazi” stuff was particularly vicious – based on editing his words to present the opposite of what he was actually saying. In reality Donald John Trump has been very close to the Jewish community since the 1960s (even helping out in Jewish places of worship – although not during the actual services), of course one of his daughters is Jewish.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Marks

I believe he is quite evil, but nevertheless did do quite a few good things. These are all either denied or denigrated and excoriated by “Woke” people.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
2 years ago

But, nonetheless, she mis-informs.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“I have known since I was about five years old that it was the arrival of Blucher and the Prussians that more or less won the Battle of Waterloo.”
I was a little behind you – I learnt this fact at school, in the days when schools still more or less knew how to teach history, at the age of ten. It wasn’t much more than thirty years ago, but it seems like another world.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

I trust you also learnt that ‘we’ had burnt Washington DC & the White House to the ground the year before Waterloo?

I am always astonished Jane Austen failed to squeeze that fact in anywhere.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
2 years ago

Sadly I didn’t learn that until later. But consider the very last sentence Jane Austen wrote, in the unfinished Sanditon:
It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H. D.”
Austen claims to be writing about a Mr Hollis, but any fule must kno that this is a coded reference to President James Madison, required to retreat from “his own [White] House” by that very fire (the phrase “the best place” is a masterstroke of irony), and resenting the ineffective generalship of H.D. (Henry Dearborn).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

Thank you, I hadn’t considered Sanditon.

It was US forces under Dearborn who burnt York* in 1813, thus providing us with the ‘excuse’ for burning Washington a year later.

What a pity Austen never completed the work, one must wonder what other references to that decidedly successful little war she might have slipped in?

(* now Toronto.)

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Two more fun facts about the War of 1812 are that the US Navy only won single-ship actions against inferior forces, and lost all those fought against equal forces, including the loss by capture of their fleet flagship USS President which became HMS President; and that the Royal Navy captured more American privateers than American privateers captured British merchant ships.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Precisely, after an indifferent start the RN gave them “a dammed good thrashing”.
My favourite being the Shannon versus the Chesapeake.
However, as you say the capture of the USS President was the crowning glory.

Have you read Andrew Lambert’s ‘The Challenge’ on the subject? Absolutely first class.

Last edited 2 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Yes I have and yes it is!

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
2 years ago

Where the White House is concerned “to the ground” is hyperbole.
But yes, set on fire.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

Agreed, it was a burnt out shell not completely repaired until the 1950’s. Is that not so?

Last edited 2 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Colin Haller
Colin Haller
2 years ago

I am told it was rebuilt by 1817 and first occupied as such by James Monroe

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

A patch up job, not properly completed until either Truman or Eisenhower.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
2 years ago

Well, it was added to/renovated for decades for over a century, yes — 1881, 1902, 1942, 1948-52, 1961, 1979, and 2013.
/pedantry

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

After the fire I gather the rain on the super heated stone & brickwork did a lot of serious damage.

Incidentally I am the proud possessor of two small bits of furniture that a ‘kinsman’ of mine apparently looted from the building.

I have heard that many other valuable contents of both the White House and the Congress/Capitol Building are to found all over England, including some of the fabled Congress Library and the Luna* marble Lectern.
Even President Maddison’s Chamber Pot was amongst the plunder!

(* Otherwise known as Carrara.)

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
2 years ago

There were many things that won Waterloo. The failure of Ney, Wellington’s strategy, the Prussians. All part of the victory and lots known by most historians. No battle is won by 1 person but Wellington still has the best reason to be the official victor.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rob Nock
Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
2 years ago

In all fairness, the totality of the allies pressure contributed to Napoleon’s defeat.

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

We even had Airfix Prussians to refight the battle along with the British and the French .

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Healy

That is a startlingly good point actually. Anybody who played with toy soldiers from about 1977, which is to say most boys at some time, would have been entirely aware of Airfix’s “Waterloo Prussian Infantry”.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And lest we forget,, when the Red Army arrived in Silesia in 1945 they broke into the Blücher mausoleum and scattered his remains. Soviet troops reportedly used his skull as a football.

However, given the nature of the man he would probably have been amused.*

(* on seeing London from the heights of Blackheath he is reputed to have said “What a City to sack!”)

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

What was the Red Army’s beef with Blücher? He had been on their side, FFS!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

No, just marauding savages.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wellington wrote in the Waterloo Dispatch that

“I should not do justice to…Marshal Blücher and the Prussian army, if I did not attribute the successful result of this arduous day to the cordial and timely assistance I received from them.”

Over the four days of fighting from June 15th to 19th, the Prussians fought two battles alone and lost both. They lost the first with superior numbers on ground they had chosen.
Wellington fought two battles and won both, outnumbered on both occasions. The only allied victories of 1815 were those at which Wellington was present. The only tactical reverse he suffered was the loss of La Haye Sainte; every other French move against him failed.
The only Prussian victory was in concert with Wellington at Waterloo. At Ligny on the 16th two of their three Corps were broken so badly they weren’t fit to fight at Waterloo. The third was subsequently broken at Wavre, the fourth made it to Waterloo where it struggled to defeat a third of its numbers, and a fifth Corps had mutinied before the campaign and had to be sent home.
At Waterloo 65,000 French were defeated by Wellington’s 70,000, about 8,000 French were defeated by Blucher’s eventual 50,000, and 33,000 French at Wavre weren’t defeated by anybody at all. The 65,000 Wellington defeated included all the heavy cavalry and the Old Guard. If he had not held off the French, the last intact Prussian corps would have been defeated too leaving four broken corps stranded between two French armies. 
After Waterloo the Prussians went on a looting spree across northern France which prolonged French resistance to them. Wellington’s army did not and paid for its supplies, so there was next to no military resistance to him at all.
The idea that Prussian help is a “discovery” is thus a lie in itself, but it’s actually worse than that because Wellington greatly understated his own contribution.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Marshal Grouchy has a lot to answer for!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

If Napoleon had thought Grouchy was any good he’d have made him a marshal before 1815…he should have put Soult in charge of the left, Ney in charge of the right, made Davout chief of staff and left Grouchy in Paris…

Hamish McDougal
Hamish McDougal
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well said. A good summary of what actually happened and which was known to every (serious) student of the battle.

Geoff Cooper
Geoff Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yup, me too.

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

it was also Wellington’s actual plan. so it wouldnt come as a shock to him either.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Well, the horses seem to like it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bps5hJ5DQDw

mark96
mark96
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It is also depicted as the decisive blow to Napoleon in the 1970 movie.

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Watched a couple of her ‘history’ series the avoided them like the plague. Just silly dressing up and more about her preening than actual history. Tiresome!

Dick Barrett
DB
Dick Barrett
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Every time someone mentions Blucher I have to make a loud neighing sound. I think I got the habit after watching Young Frankenstein.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I agree. Reading this piece I was astonished to learn that the timely arrival of Blucher wasn’t common knowledge. Like you, I feel I have known this since childhood. I’m 56 though. Perhaps we had a better education in the 70s?

parkalot01
parkalot01
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It was?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

#MeToo. But kids of Otto English’s age don’t know this, because they don’t actually get taught any history at school because of the wokeness of their teachers, which is ironic.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago

so abject I feel a bit guilty even writing about it, like a grown man punching a toddler. 

Perfect. In a nutshell, that’s how it feels trying to converse with wokes. They are toddlers with kindergarten words, kindergarten concepts and ideas: hate, luv, lie, troof.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
2 years ago

Yes, and we indulge them, because they’re cute and don’t know any better. Then they get tired of our condescending pandering to their childish whims and report us, denounce us, to the authorities , the Stasi, the Red Guards, the Gestapo, for incorrect thought, for believing in un-thought, to lies, and we all know where that leads (or do we ?). Then it stops being funny, but don’t worry, they’ll denounce themselves (and probably write books or blogs about it) in thirty to forty years time, about how beastly they all were, so that’ll be alright then.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Are Marxist wreckers cute? I hadn’t noticed.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

It is indeed an excellent statement, which I will plagiarise (verbally) as long as my memory retains it …

Alex Wilkinson
Alex Wilkinson
2 years ago

It’s psychological and moral immaturity isn’t it. That would be fine if they weren’t so self-approving and aggressive about it. But then it’s the adults who perhaps suffer with the same hang-ups, albeit not to the same degree, who’ve let the kids out of the play pen.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Wilkinson

History changed over from political events with a narrative to social which hop all over the place. Fine if you are an historian who knows their stuff . Bit difficult if you are teaching kids who when asked to write an essay on Henry V111 thought ‘Henry V111 was a fat bas tard ‘ to be sufficient information on that particular monarch

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Though apparently even Henry didn’t know his second wife was actually of african descent. I am glad the new drama corrected his mistake.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
2 years ago

It must be dreadful, being Andrew Scott, or someone like him. All that rage and bitterness and hatred: what does he think when he wakes in the morning ? Does he look forward to a day of writing and, heaven preserve us, thinking this sort of stuff? It would be quite sad, if it wasn’t so pernicious.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Very true. I often think how utterly awful it must be to live the whole of the only life you’re given as an angry, petulant, hate-filled, envious leftist.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Mirrors in the Scott domicile must be as rare as in a vampire’s home. In fairness, would you want to look at that twisted mug?

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
2 years ago

I can’t actually remember a time when Genghis Khan was referred to as nothing but a barbarian. Even when I was very young, the impression I got was that he was one of the great empire-builders, a Julius Caesar of the east. Funnily enough, the only historical figure I can think of that’s had a complete one-eighty turn is Napleon. When I was growing up, he was a great man; these days, he seems to more be seen as a power-mad warmonger. (not that both those things can’t be true at once, of course)
But yeah, that always seems to be the case with people who think they’re blowing your mind by revealing “the REAL truth.” Maybe that worked once, but there’s been so many of them over the years that we all pretty much know that real history was messy and heroic narratives are usually convenient oversimplifications.

Last edited 2 years ago by Daniel Björkman
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

But Genghis Khan was meritocratic. This is what made him successful. He promoted the best.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

His generals were all his brothers and sons… so… not *too* meritocratic. Khasar, Kachiun? His son, Jochi? Or the grandson, Kublai?

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Gleeballs
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Jochi wasn’t really his son though. He was the result of his mother’s rape when she was kidnapped by one of Genghiz’s rivals.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Deleted

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Gleeballs
Cassander Antipatru
CA
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

There were rumours; as I understand it, Mrs. Genghis was kidnapped about nine months before Jochi’s birth, so either man could have been the real father.

John Lewis
John Lewis
2 years ago

An excellent essay in stark contrast to today’s other offerings by Giles Fraser and, to a lesser extent, Remi Adekoya both of which would fit snugly into “Otto English’s” world view.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lewis

The other article i’ve read by Dominic Sandbrook was superb too. Sharp, acute and witty, a pleasure to read (and re-read a few more times). Wish we could get more of him and fewer of the Guardian has-beens, race hustlers and displeased old feminists.

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago

He writes for the Daily Mail sometimes, which presumably annoys a lot of people who deserve to be annoyed.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago

The woke don’t believe in truth, they believe in discourses. What this Otto English is doing is ‘exposing’ the ‘white supremacist’ discourse. The woke minions will not question it and perceive it as revelatory wisdom.
We’re in trouble.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
2 years ago

Mind you, I’ve had time to think about Kahn’s reputation. Yes he may have butchered, raped, tortured and mutilated with the abandon of a kid locked inside in a sweet shop for the night but was he really bad?
Well, it’s simple. He could not have been really bad because, you see, he wasn’t English.

Only the English is really bad, blood. Innit.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

“As the day wore on, the Duke looked anxiously for the Prussians and, in late afternoon, Bluecher’s vanguard appeared.”
RJ Usted’s history book “Freedom and Revolution” written for children (I was under eleven when I was given it) – published 1972.

dean edge
dean edge
2 years ago

Excellent and overdue. I find Dr Worsley especially irritating: all that dressing up whilst voicing fashionable opinions and coming over as a proper little madam. Very like the insufferable Professor Brian Cox: they start off seeming engaging and different and then they drink their own bathwater and conclude that the ephemeral fame elevates their modest academic attainments to that of a Nobel Laureate. Next their telling us who to vote for. Something the best of the telly academics like Dominic and I suggest the excellent James Fox, manage to avoid.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

Although the issue of whether medieval people thought the world was flat was actually covered by an article here: https://staging.unherd.com/2019/11/the-myth-of-the-anti-science-middle-ages/
I guess the complexity comes from the fact that there is no bright-line between opinion and fact. To say that the middle ages were a benighted era of superstition has some basis in fact and is an opinion that can be held with the historical record. To say that medieval thinkers thought the world was flat can easily be disproven with a visit to Hereford cathedral to see the Mappa Mundi with one’s own eyes.
I agree that acceptance of opinion is important but there is also something weirdly 21st century and post-modern about denying that some level of factual evidence is important in terms of basing one’s belief. After all, the main issue with wokism is not that it seeks to impose evidence based thinking, but rather it closes itself to such thinking, on matters such as the heritability of intelligence, for example or on sexual dimorphism in humans. I remember in the podcast with Tom Holland you suggested that the interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon settlement as being an admixture of the host population with an immigrant elite was ‘woke’ but as Tom Holland correctly pointed out, this is simply based on genetic evidence not a political statement. Now how you interpret that genetic evidence is one thing, but the simple genetic data suggests that the pre-Roman population of Britain simply wasn’t wiped out and whatever happened (and we don’t really know) the simple narrative simply didn’t happen.
I mean, I did enjoy your books on post-war Britain a lot, and they seem to be based on extensive research and evidence. As far as I am awar “Otto English” is an entertainer and not a scholar, so I don’t really feel his paltry offerings have much to offer themselves to the study of history. But you are a serious and profound historian who should perhaps not get entangled with the nonsense of people such as this individual. Perhaps this is more of a way of thinking that appeals to modern historians who have an over-abundance of data and multiple available interpretations than to ancient and early medieval historians who, like archaeologists, have to more closely cleave their ideas to the scraps of evidence that there are.
Although I do agree people generally don’t write history to tell lies. A paucity of evidence at the time someone writes something can mean that someone can be factually incorrect and not lying. I am quite happy to accept the good faith of those presenting an argument as long as they are willing to accept that they may have been wrong – “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken” – as Cromwell said. This inability to argue in good faith without being accused of being a racist fascist, or as woke fanatic, is poisoning all intellectual discussion.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago

But you are a serious and profound historian who should perhaps not get entangled with the nonsense of people such as this individual. 

That would be the right approach in a sane, normal state of affairs. But right now the charlatans, entertainers, dimwits and malignant shysters are calling the shots in academia.

David Oram
David Oram
2 years ago

“After all, who but a fraud claims to have a monopoly on the truth?”
Very well said Mr. Sandbrook.
I would add a further riposte from another of my favourite ‘historians’:
“Don’t speak to me in absolutes. The evidence IS contestable” – Dr Zaius in ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968).

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 years ago

Mixed thoughts here. I enjoyed my undergraduate studies in history, and plan to continue them in the next few years. There was certainly an odour of ‘we know real history, unlike those dumb right wing politicans’ present in my third year units. Yet it is good to challenge misconceptions people have about the past.
Personally, I find it annoying when people depict the Middle Ages as stupid, subpar, ‘unenlightened.’ These beliefs smack of self-imposed superiority and are a mockery of the actual past. As a historian (can I call myself that? Idk what the rules are!), I will challenge others on history. It’s not to make a political point, or to get more followers on Twitter. I do it because I believe in truth and debate. One can praise the Enlightenment while pointing out that many of its writers (and fans today) misrepresented the Middle Ages. You should be able to argue a point without relying on historical assumptions. Of course, one must allow room for debate, which is fundamental to historical inquiry. I hope any Enlightenment-loving person strengthens their position after discussing history with me. The reverse is true: I’m a devout Romantic, and I must remember the power of a strong argument.
However, this article has a point in how smug historians are when ‘correcting’ others. One could question Boris Johnson’s adoration of Churchill. But the ‘woke’ historians are more interested in mockery, bringing others down, character assassinations, and making crass histories of their own. ‘Unveiling’ the truth of Churchill doesn’t mean you destroyed the inner workings of Johnson. Storytelling is crucial to both culture and politics, and it isn’t shocking for anyone to draw strength from the past. ‘Deconstruction’ is not historical inquiry.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

But that’s the thing – history is not seen in context anymore, it is not viewed as events occurring in a particular time period. Instead, it is viewed through and judged by standards of the present. In today’s view, the Middle Ages probably were unenlightened but that’s by today’s view. The real tragedy of this approach is that it cuts off any consideration of how things have changed since that period, the Enlightenment, or times of colonialism and even slavery. The world has changed this those times but noticing that apparently requires a level of critical thinking that is simply too much for the critics to handle.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Unfortunately there is no objective ground from which to evaluate the events of the past — coming to us as they do from narratives either concurrent with those events or subsequent to them. Historians are creatures of their times as much as are we all, and the concerns of the present always wriggle their way into our interpretations of the past, consciously or otherwise.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

I do it because I believe in truth and debate. 

You see that’s where you’re getting it wrong. Marxists provide you with the truth, so there’s nothing to debate unless you’re a fascist.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

Apropos the Middle Ages there was a superb series by a Professor called Robert Bartlett called ‘Inside the Medieval Mind’ on BBC 4 a few years back which really broadened my horizons. Also, when did we stop spelling ‘Medieval’ ‘Mediaeval’? Always preferred the latter spelling – it has the whiff of the Middle Ages!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Professor Bartlett also did a fine series on both the Normans & Plantagenets,

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

Yes – proper historian

David Foot
David Foot
2 years ago

I would say that we really need to look at the facts which remain from the Empire which Churchill stood for, not just the UK, and this idea about “by white men for white men” business. The second world economy is racist like no other, it is not white, it is very advanced and has slavery, it harvests people for organs etc. I will not go in to if the Marxists from the Marxist Empires subsidise the Traitor Manufacturing plants in our country of Oxford, Cambridge and other former universities. I think we need to just look at the facts. We need the big picture, to see the map where we are heading and where we are coming from.
No other culture, ideology, empire or whatever you like has built so many paradises where people not necessarily white are prepared to die alongside their children to try to get in, that Empire of Churchill’s has given us USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, so many places, some of the best in the world to live in. These now nations absorbed the ideas from the Empire and that was it, unquestionable. If these places fall to pieces it is only because of a Marxist attack from inside trying to undermine and deny their greatness, mostly because of envy, the Marxist zero sum argument. This is done carefully ignoring the much worse things going on in the totalitarian Marxist Empires in expansion.
While those best examples, just named, were well equipped to survive the 1945 Marxist landslide to Westminster and its catastrophic consequences were specially bad for others which were not yet ready.
Decolonization for the other nations meant to fight the Empire’s ideology and to reaffirm that which was not Imperial and most of these places, which were successful colonies like “the breadbasket of Africa: Rhodesia” turned in to decolonization failures where great numbers of mostly blacks were killed or starved and the failed nations turned in to the Manufacturing Plants for Refugees of today to which the Marxists in the UK want us to send shed loads of money. In the Empire days they were doing fantastically well for themselves. Marxists also want to let in all those who want to come here in order to destroy us (David Lamy wants us to ship them in directly from source!!!)
What Marxist Labour is doing pushing us to send more aid money and pushing us not only to let in all the failures of decolonization but even to fly them in straight from the Labour decolonization failures is going to build a new little Empire inside the UK (Labour wants them not to integrate but to keep their valuable failed identities). Then Labour will deal with this little Empire of failures as it dealt with the real thing in 1945 it will split our nation and destroy us, same as it did to our Union after the 1997 landslide. The end game for Labour is the total destruction of England, when that finally happens corks will pop in Moscow!
Eventually Labour will split and destroy England for ever, that is the final objective of Marxism and Labour, that is their “modus operandi”.
You only have to look at what Labour has done every time it has had power, it has attacked us and split us up. Corbyn was going to brainwash the English children against their greatness, and refugees welcome!
There are already Labourites trying to split the North of England and London, the simple fact is that Labour is going to take us back to before the Tudors and with no way of reversing these changes because they will make sure that big parts of England will no longer be England. We need to get off this curve and fast in 1945 we were together with 1/4 of the world, this was totally split up, 2021 we are struggling to hold on to England itself. All that went in a lifetime, what is left of our greatness will not last another lifetime. That is why I say that we must get off this curve.
The only way to stop immigration is to restore the Empires and their successful colonies, without sovereignty and giving shed loads of foreign aid will never do that, these Labour Refugee Manufacturing Plants will never change, to the contrary the corrupt regimes left behind by the Marxists will make the corrupt even happier (Note that the Marxists didn’t decolonize the Marxist Empires, only the Western ones, yet now they are trying to destroy us totally from inside criticizing us viciously and ignoring what really goes on TODAY in their Marxist Empires in expansion which is far worse than anything they try to accuse us of: slavery, harvesting of people for their organs etc.).
So get real, take a few steps back and look at the big picture of the world and where we are going if we don’t make radical changes fast.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  David Foot

At least Ernest Bevin got us the Atomic Bomb, and in his words it had “a bl**dy Union Jack on it.”

Now all we have to do is use it judiciously.

David Foot
David Foot
2 years ago

I wish Labour had continued like that in every respect but it hasn’t. At least Stalin insisted on patriotism. Some times I wonder if Labour really wanted to give us socialism, perhaps it is different to be a Marxist from outside to be a Marxist from inside and to get elected, I wonder.
I have tried to understand but as an engineer I like to observe curves and behaviour over time. This helps me understand what is really happening. I would look at Labour’s effects or deeds right from 1945 to date, even cases like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, they are consistent with if it works break it. This socialist party has been splitting everything from day one when it first got power.
Today we have some from Labour trying to break off part of the North of England and London from England
On the other hand many from Labour don’t want to fly the Union Jack any more. There may have been some inherited patriotism at the start but that has gone. They sing that they want to keep the red flag flying and not the Union Jack, some don’t want to even see it. It is hard to get some of them to sing the National Anthem at times.
Even though Stalin was a Marxist, and Marxism goes against nations, he saw the importance of patriotism and kept the Russian Empire very patriotic, and Russia is still like that today (I think China is the same but I haven’t visited), so the Russian Empire, our rivals, fight to be united united, to do that Stalin had to create his own form of Marxism within one country (Stalinism). Labour is going deeper and deeper towards pure Marxism which is by definition anti-nation, in our case anti-British, and it is prepared to use any grievance to attack the State. That is my view. That is what I see. Lamy wants to fly in “refugees” directly from source.
Just like with Russia the great nationalised industries by Labour failed and weren’t able to compete any more, Marxism is against competition, so I think my reasoning in general is right, and what is more, we are a shadow of what we were in 1945, that was a lifetime ago and if we continue going in the same direction what is left of our greatness will not last even another lifetime, we are desperately trying to keep England in one piece (this is unacceptable), Corbyn was going to brainwash the kids against our greatness. So I do think that Labour will continue on its journey towards our destruction. It is not a solution, no matter what individually Labour leaders say, their ideology keeps doing the same thing every timne: India was split, the entire Empire was split, Uk was split, after creating a little Empires in England itself with incompatible immigration Labour is going to split England as well, that will be the end.
Europe can’t take in all the failures of decolonization, it is impossible. It is not a solution to bring the refugees here, they want what they used to have in the stable and successful colonies, the only way to stop the refugees is to give them the stable European governments which they used to have or to restore the Empires. China and Russia don’t have anything to do with the refugees the refugees try to get European rule, sending shed loads of money won’t do this. We need to stop the fire fighting and re-focus European politics across the world because it stands to reason that entire populations are not going to accept being left behind by decolonization. Labours “refugees welcome” is a carry on diging policy which will destroy everything everywhere as it has been doing since 1945.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago
Reply to  David Foot

Back up a bit. What is the “second world economy”?

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
2 years ago

Writing and publishing are businesses and writing and publishing books on history whether fact or fiction is a particularly crowded marketplace. Producing a book and calling it Fake History indicates that Andrew Scott’s publishers have a pretty clear idea of their target audience and how to reach them. And I don’t think we are talking about a potential buyer who is looking for a carefully researched and thorough examination of the distortions of history. There is nothing knew about authors writing fanciful history books. Gildas, William of Malmsbury and Geoffrey of Monmouth may provide our age with useful pointers to the times in which they lived, but their writings were heavily influenced by the prevailing political climate and quite possibly sewn with a few lies. The ‘woke’ generation is a fact and being so provides a market for material which accords with their world view, no matter how absurd. When Dominic Sandbrook says: …I suppose Otto English isn’t really writing for me. He’s writing for people who think that history is a simple matter of truth and lies”, he touches upon the real problem, which is what happens when otherwise sensible people start to believe this stuff?

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
2 years ago

Mr English or Scott or whatever his name is has been rather severely skewered here.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 years ago

Funnily enough, “stewing the living taste out of everything” probably isn’t that far from how curry was invented, whether in India or here. My grandfather who’d been in the Navy prior to WWII always had an aversion to it; as far as he was concerned it was a way of disguising the taste of rancid meat, and not to be trusted. Which, in a time and place before you had widespread refridgeration (at tropical latitudes), probably wasn’t that far from the truth. The Indians just had better spices than we did and got access to fridges later.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
2 years ago

Is it a “lie”, as English suggests, that the Little Ships were crucial at Dunkirk?

Maybe they were crucial. Not to the overall rescue of the soldiers but to the morale of the country and especially those involved.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

Eventually, the mob in the US will come for FDR for his treatment of Americans of Japanese heritage. It will come for MLK for his mistreatment of women. It will do likewise for JFK and quite possibly, any other Kennedy to ever hold public office. It will look askance at Bill Clinton for his various foibles. And so on and so forth. It is a disease, this insistence on judging the past by standards of the present.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

An excellent deception of the Censor if I may so! William Dunbar*would be proud of you.

(*16th century Scotch Diplomat & Poet, first accredited with using the dreaded ‘C’ word. He describes being “C…bitten in London. ie he contracted VD, poor chap.)

Last edited 2 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Gleeson
John Gleeson
2 years ago

LOL. Thank you. I love learning new things like that.

David J
David J
2 years ago

Otto English is a new name to me, but after this genteel take-down, I think he can remain a not-so-great unknown.

Laura Sykes
Laura Sykes
2 years ago

Individual historians differing on interpretation is one of the oldest stories in the world.
But Dominic Sandbrook is also writing about something different, which is the wholesale rewriting of history for political reasons by a specific group, on a planned basis.
I find his account completely convincing, partly because it has been happening in India for decades. As a very unimportant cog in that story, but allied to the doughty Narayani Gupta, I saw this with my own eyes.
See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/opinion/india-elections-modi-history.html
https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/india-modi-culture/
https://www.codastory.com/disinformation/india-reframing-history/
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/rewriting-indias-history-hindutva-forces-destroy-indias-present-and-future/309466
and many more.
It is in the perceived interests of the ultra-right to turn the whole of history into a series of two-dimensional incidents, with events and characters either (wholly) good or (wholly) bad. Their behaviour becomes saintly or dastardly, heroic or cowardly etc.
This is not with the aim of making history easier for children to absorb, but in order to turn us all into gullible and easily-led children.
Resist!

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

As mad as Johnny English, though not as funny

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
2 years ago

If you demolish one “fake” history, the likelihood is that you will simply replace it with another fake history, which in turn will be replaced in another generation or 2.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 years ago

After a gap of many years, I made a return visit to the Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth a couple of years ago. I searched in vain for a clear exposition of the tactics and progress of the Battle of Trafalgar but found plenty of display boards inviting me to imagine how it felt to be a sailor in the crowded ‘tween decks amid the roar and smoke of the battle. Grrhh!!

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

The problem is that no new edition on a great hero like Nelson, Churchill, Rhodes or Clive would get published unless it contained ‘shocking new revelations’ of some character flaw, some belief typical of its time but now frowned upon, or revealed a tendency to sleep with the staff.

My worry – as expressed beautifully in this article, is that the first, great narrative is lost in all the revisionist noise. Wellington ‘saved’ by Blucher may or may not be strictly true – but for some, it is a way of undermining a great man’s actual achievements. It is the ‘takeaway’ fact, as if Wellington somehow wasn’t the greatest soldier of the age.

“Ah, but you know he’d never have won without the Prussians….?”

We’re always told ‘history is written by the winners’. It’s important that the winners here, aren’t people who hate our story and our extraordinary history.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Gleeballs
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

There’s a wonderful book called Our Island Story that was written 100 years ago by Henrietta Marshall (so she passes Otto’s “no white men” test.) The book veers freely between legend and factual history, starting with Albion, through Arthur, Alfred, Canute, William the Conquerer, all the way to Queen Victoria. Marshall admits that many people would not see some of these as “history”, but she argues they are. Her point is that something doesn’t have to be completely true for it to contain Truth.

Were there really only 300 Spartans at Thermopylae? No. Did the bravery of the Thermopylae Spartans preserve Western civilization against overwhelming odds? Yes.

Arthur is still important even if he didn’t have a round table. Newton figured out that planetary orbits and falling objects were the same phenomenon, whether an apple was involved or not. And Neptune may not have gifted the most beautiful island in the world to his son, but it’s still a beautiful island,

The most important truths sometimes can’t be contained by facts.

Simon Newman
SN
Simon Newman
2 years ago

Did the bravery of the Thermopylae Spartans preserve Western civilization against overwhelming odds?”
The Spartans at Thermopylae didn’t. The inspiring narrative of the Spartans at Thermopylae may have contributed to Greek victory at Salamis and Plataea. It certainly has been influential down through the ages. The story was more important than the actual event.

John Johnson
John Johnson
2 years ago

Andrew Scott is Irish. The Irish are not friends of the British although he seems very happy to benefit from employment here.

Debbie Mellor
Debbie Mellor
2 years ago

What a relief to read some sense and proportion. Life, people, history, social progress – all are complex and multifaceted. Pity it’s the sensationalists and the self-publicists who get the platforms so often. Whether it’s Trump or Corbyn it’s too easy the paint the world in unshaded stereotypes.

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
2 years ago

Lucy Worsley’s television programme on American history was even worse than her series on British history – she claimed to be exposing “fibs”, but her account of American history was a tissue of wild distortions (basically far left agitprop). “Otto English” is not important – he is a joke figure (he does not even know that the politics of John Enoch Powell were just about the opposite of the politics of the National Socialist Adolf Hitler), but Lucy Worsley is very much part of the British establishment – and this shows how leftist (how intellectually corrupt) the establishment has become.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
2 years ago

Articles such as this give hope that there may be a resistance to Woke madness.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

That’s the second article in a couple of days to reference The Matrix, which was a somehwat over-hyped and over-praised film in my opinion. It demeans serious people like Dominic Sandbrook when they take such products seriously.

John Gleeson
John Gleeson
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

How pathetic.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, I had a moment of deja vu when I started reading it…presumably just coincidence, but oddly, deja vu is also a sign of a glitch in the matrix when an Agent appears, so who knows? Personally though, I love The Matrix

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Not a film I was bothered about at the time and consequently have never seen. Probably not missing much. This said, I have read some of Sandbrook’s books and his style in many chapters is to weave a narrative around popular culture. Doesn’t really matter if the film/play/novel is good or bad, more how it reflected or influenced the time.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

Have tried to find Andrew Scott’s CV. Assuming he didn’t study history beyond A Level – though he is fanfared as a ‘social commentator and expert historian’? It seems like harmless ‘toilet reading’ material. It’s for the ‘converted’. It won’t sell in 10,000s or poison young minds. Give the guy a break.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Give the guy a break.

Why?


Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
2 years ago

Sorry, not likely TO (typo)

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
2 years ago

Excellent. Every country is entitled to its version of history, with a bit of embellishment here and there to make a better story. Even if it’s the victors who write it. So one side of a story becomes the narrative, and there’s no harm in uncovering the other side. That doesn’t mean the winning or dominant side is wholly wrong or a bad story.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

I would aver that the real problem is that it makes the reader feel like a victim.
As in a Brechtian play, it motivates you to go out and get even with you “oppressors.” But both the Nazis and Communists relied very much on the idea that their followers were victims. Moreover, once you think that, it can justify almost anything in order to stop the people “out to get you.”
Civil debate about how to change society for the better has produced quite a bit of good in the past. But it invariably depended on each side appealing to a combination of the population’s self interest and desire to produce a decent society.
But it’s pretty hard to do that when you think your interlocutors are out to eliminate you.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
2 years ago

Ir read that the Dothraki in the TV series “Game of Thrones” were based on the Mongol hordes. Someone constructed a Dothraki language, or at least the bare bones of one out of the few snippets of Dothraki in the novels. You wonder why the directors didn’t just have the Dothraki speak Mongolian even if it meant ignoring dialogue in the novels. It wouldn’t be the first time the series departed from the novels.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
2 years ago

Good piece with lots of things that needed to be said.

The history of Culture rather than the history of events has already been incorporated into the purview of the Culture War whereby the dogmatic adherents of Uncritical Theory seek to eliminate any rival interpretations of cultural history and eliminate any cultural artifacts that symbolise these rival interpretations.

Ethnic cleansing is always associated with ideological cleansing and is usually dressed up as a ‘civilising mission’, but if it seeks to eliminate pluralism, and by extension diversity, then it should be resisted at all costs.

parkalot01
parkalot01
2 years ago

Whenever you read the fire of revolutionary rhetoric blazed across the pages of popular magazines you can be fairly sure that someone, somewhere is making money from it.

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
2 years ago

I can’t watch Worsley, though I tried at first. She is too silly and depressingly narcissistic.

Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
2 years ago

I haven’t read Otto English’s book, and am not likely too, if it’s anything like as bad as Sandbrook says it is.
However…
I have read several of Dominic Sandbrook’s social histories of Britain in the 50s to the present day, and enjoyed them all.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t write the sub-title to his piece: “Woke historians want to expose lies about the past — even when they don’t exist” as:

  1. English isn’t a historian
  2. “Woke” is a meaningless epithet. It is almost exclusively now hurled by right-wingers and cultural warriors at anyone who doesn’t wholly subscribe to a particular historical narrative

And, this was written by Sandbrook, what is the fact that English is (allegedly) an “anti-Brexit firebrand” to do with his argument? Whether or not one agrees with English’s thesis in his book, the rights and wrongs of Brexit (are there any rights? Honestly, now?) are not pertinent to Sandbrook’s case against him. I sincerely hope it’s not a gratuitous call for aid from the increasingly desperate Brexit fanatics.

Mark H
Mark H
2 years ago

Presumable a person who cannot seen nuance in reporting of current events where so much information is available is not well qualified to tease apart the nuance of historical events?

Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Intrigued by your reply but I don’t see how it relates to my comment.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
2 years ago

Mark H is simply saying that Otto English’s being an anti-Brexit firebrand supports the argument being made in this article that English’s views of human events (both current and historical) tend toward the Manichaen. You are either right or wrong. You are either good or evil. You are either telling the truth or lying.

The world is more nuanced than that. And, yes, there are some rights of Brexit.

Last edited 2 years ago by Carlos Danger
Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
2 years ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Kindly explain just one of the benefits.
As for nuance, either the decision to leave the EU was right or it was wrong.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago

“Woke” is a meaningless epithet. It is almost exclusively now hurled by right-wingers and cultural warriors at anyone who doesn’t wholly subscribe to a particular historical narrative

Not at all. It’s a perfectly meaningful collective noun of its own, besides being a most acute epithet. For years it was relentlessly disseminated by the woke themselves; now they want to disown it. Not going to happen. We keep that word and all its derivations: wokery, wokerati, etc. etc. Thank you, wokes, for giving us such splendid neologism.

hurled by right-wingers

You’re saying that as if there was anything wrong with being a right-winger. Or as if ‘woke‘ was somehow a less meaningless epithet before it was appropriated by us antiwokes.

Jon Mcgill
Jon Mcgill
2 years ago

The problem here is obvious: review in depth one book, flawed and flimsy, and then tarnish the entire notion that history is written by the winners, who just happen in many cases to be white men leading co0lonial adventures and imperial dreams. This is shabby writing, sarcastic and overblown and not worth the paper it was not written on.

Mark H
MH
Mark H
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Mcgill

I don’t get the “tarnish the notion that history is written by the winners”? Doesn’t come through in the article.
By the way, there is plenty of history out there that was written by the losers if you are willing to look for it. It generally comes in the form of personal accounts so has to be pieced together by the reader. Occasionally it comes when the losers regain power, but then has to be very carefully read due to revisionism and often a desire to portray the losers as victims.

Paul Eastham
Paul Eastham
2 years ago

Dominic, you complain about the woke historians’ tendency to wild generalisation, but I notice the headline on your piece does exactly that – and then proceeds to tear apart the straw man in the shape of this obviously feeble book. Revisionist history has more legitimacy than that. It is also a bit rich for you, as a tendentious conservative writer yourself, to claim an objectivity you obviously cannot claim.’

Bertie B
Bertie B
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Eastham

I agree, from the article it seems like this book is just an interpretation of certain historical facts aimed at the gerneral public who may or may not know them.. the “lies” it contains may well be revelations for some people.
I recently read a similar (Shite) book called “52 time England was a Bellend”, and found that it obviously wasnt aimed at me, I doubt this book is aimed at anyone who reads this website, or for that matter people who read the Guardian.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

I read the Guardian now and then. ( But I’m pretty sure I’m not in UnHerd‘s ‘target market’. As long as I keep getting the negative numbers in red I know I am OK!) No, I wouldn’t waste time on a book like this – especially as I have just today found a secondhand copy of Dominic Sandbrook’s Seasons in the Sun.

Mark H
Mark H
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

IMO the target market is Red Tory/Blue Labour, it’s just that most BTL engagement comes from right-of-centre readers.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

the target market is Red Tory/Blue Labour

That would be a rather niche market. A strongly left-leaning niche market. The proverbial neutral ‘centre‘, which i think by-and-large overlaps with the societal majority’s stance, falls quite to the “right” (unleft) of that. The BTL engagement is a fairly reflective representation of that.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

Which society? Where? Which demographic?

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Pretty much all European societies, including the UK.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Eastham

What makes you think DS wrote the headline?

Grant Evans
Grant Evans
2 years ago

You can do better than this Dominic. Your essay is just a rant.