Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but are there more signs of the historical myths of ‘Great Britishness’ being examined and exposed?
Published on 26 October, 2020 in New Yorker magazine is a preview of a soon to be published book by Stanford University historian Priya Satia entitled: “Time’s Monster: How History Makes History”. It poses the question: ‘how did the British get to be so blinkered about their own history?’
The New Yorker article is itself a good read for anyone reflecting on the ‘goodness’ of the UK in the world. It includes this: ‘The public narrative about Britain’s imperial past matters because it is keenly felt to license present injustice. “Our collective amnesia about the legacy of our colonial past is not getting any better,” the writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch observes in her podcast “We Need to Talk About the British Empire.” “We’re engulfed in a sense of denial”.’
A second example that comes to mind is the publication in 2018 of Peter Hitchens book: ‘The Phoney Victory: The World War II Delusion”. The blurb notes: “In the years since the declaration of peace in 1945 many myths have sprung up around the conflict in the victorious nations. In this book, Peter Hitchens deconstructs the many fables which have become associated with the narrative of the `Good War’. Whilst not criticising or doubting the need for war against Nazi Germany at some stage. … “ His purpose is stated thus: “In a provocative, but deeply-researched book, Hitchens questions the most common assumptions surrounding World War II, turning on its head the myth of Britain’s role in a `Good War’.” There are some eye-opening ‘claims’ made in this book.
And by contrast but yet related, I came across this btl on Richard Murphy’s Tax Research blog only a couple of days ago. It’s a short film called ‘ ‘Bombing is the London Way : it’s about a recent example of the nature of the British state and its political class. I can’t vouch for the attribution of all the scenes featuring in the film but the opening sequence alone, of events drawing on archive footage from Westminster, gives a powerful message.
NOTE: this film contains images from a war zone. They are tragic and very disturbing. Be warned: some might find them too disturbing and prefer not to watch the film!