History for the Admiring

Clipped from my local paper The [Redacted] Jolly Good News Paper…

Team Jane Seymour gears up for action.
Team Jane Seymour gears up for action.

Several universities in the United Kingdom have proposed sweeping changes to the teaching and study of history. No longer will there be courses such as ‘From Byzantium to the Long March’ or ‘What Did the Romans Ever Do for Us?’

“That kind of teaching is outmoded and unfair,” one source told our reporter. “Our students are finding it very difficult to go onto facebook and talk about the boring or not so nice bits of history. Some are being traumatised by fans of this king or that queen because they insist on discussing the facts, such as are known. Our student counsellors are stretched to capacity and we now run recovery workshops three times a week.” Like the successful and popular ‘How to Stop Being a Tudor Troll’ workshop I attended at Durham University recently where I met a student I will call ‘Norma’[i]

“All I wanted to do was talk about the Wars of the Roses,” Norma said, her face pale and her hands shaking. “But I don’t admire anyone enough for that. I came here for help and I certainly got it! I now know the 10 Reasons I Should Hate Henry Tudor and I’ve memorized the first 500 Reasons I Should Admire Richard III. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m taking steps. Definitely taking steps.”

From now on, students wishing to study history are to choose the person they most admire. Teaching staff, class structure and course names will be built upon that. So, soon, we will be enjoying university courses such as: ‘Charles II, England’s Cuddliest King’, ‘Dick Turpin and his Influence on Fashion’ and ‘Canute: Cool King or the Coolest King?’

Reaction to the proposals has been mixed, with some in the university sector welcoming the changes. “Now we can get down to some proper history,” our source said. “None of this stuff about King John or Ivan the Terrible. No-one wants to know about unpleasant people like that!”

Others are more skeptical, wondering what we stand to lose with this approach. “History isn’t just about nice people doing nice things,” an eminent retired professor told us. “You can’t just decide for yourself what someone was like then twist the evidence to make it fit.”

‘Twisting the Evidence to Make it Fit’ and ‘How to Ignore Things that Make You Feel Uncomfortable’ are two proposed introductory courses to be offered at all participating universities.

But what if there’s a clash or conflict of interests?

“Well,” our source said. “If we get an influx of students choosing, variously, Catherine of Arragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, we have a contingency plan we can quickly put into action. Each group will be kept strictly separate except for one day a year when we will hold an annual “Henry VIII’s Wives’ Free-for All” paintball tournament. We tried something similar last year with our, admittedly small ‘Henry Tudor Wasn’t as Bad as All That’ pilot class up against our ‘Good King Richard!’ pilot class. Unfortunately, the Tudor chap is still trying to get the paint out of his hair.”

[i] Not her real name.

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J E F Dingle-Bell thinks this is a marvellous idea and can’t wait for the time when all the nasty bits from history are totally wiped from the collective human memory. She is planning to attend her local university in the near future to study all the nice things about the Battle of Stalingrad, as she is so admiring of Georgy Zhukov, noting (of course) there are some dodgy ‘facts’ that will need to be buried. She is currently workshopping some ideas for the name of the course she will create and is torn between ‘The Picnic of Stalingrad’ and ‘How Zhukov Asked the Germans Very Politely If They Would Please Leave, And They Did’.

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