??1066 and all that?? told us there were only two memorable dates in English history, 55 BC (Caesars invasion) and 1066 (The Norman Conquest).
By the same standard there is only one memorable day and month date in English history ?? the 5th November (Gunpowder Plot).
The present government has had a very poor understanding of history. It seems to divide it into the veiled years ?? anything before 1979; the Thatcher years ?? have a free hiss before passing go; the Major years ?? blame it for anything you do not like about today ; and the New Labour years of glory and enlightenment. There are some signs of revisionism creeping in, as friends of Gordon seek to divide the New Labour years into the years of mistaken ideology, the Blair phase, and the sunny uplands of the Gordon regime.
Anyone seeking to understand the present, and to have some sensible view of what the future might hold, needs to understand the past in all its complexity. The past may be another country, but it was peopled by our predecessors who contributed to the folk tradition, or by ourselves even if we were behaving and thinking somewhat differently from today. A society is influenced and constrained by its past, and only wants to change so much at a certain pace.
I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to some of the events of British history that have had an impact on our island story, as their anniversaries come up during the course of 2008. By seeking birthdays for events I will be forced to mention more battles and treaties than processes or actions that took place over many days. There is a commemoration day for Trafalgar but not for the Industrial Revolution, but each anniversary will allow comment on the wider issues that lay behind the memorable event.
I will also seek to show why these events still have some relevance today, or how they reflect something in the British character and approach to government and to our place in the world that still holds true. I will use the modern or Gregorian Calendar even where contemporaries were using the Julian which would bring the date forward. If you wish to improve on the policies and approach of a government that seems to have little understanding of history, you need to demonstrate how sensitivity to the past can avoid present and future pain. If only this government had, for example, understood the strong objections to Cromwell’s Major Generals, maybe they would have taken a different view on much hated regional government today.