Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Fascinating Guardian article on the way that school history textbooks are being rewritten, to embrace the concept of European Union. Now kids are getting a revisionist history with a kinder, gentler past in it, one that the people who were living there probably wouldn't have recognised.

Soysal has examined how textbooks for children aged 11 to 14 have taught European history over three decades. She has found some startling changes since the Eighties.

The Vikings have gone from being depicted as pillaging aggressors to skilful, peace-loving traders. In early editions of From Cavemen to Vikings (A and C Black), the Vikings are referred to as 'fierce raiders [who] began to attack our coasts'. But in its 1994 edition, they are described as 'Danes [who] besides being farmers, were much better at trading than Saxons. The Danes and Saxons settled down together and Saxon England became one rich and peaceful kingdom.'

I think it's a lovely way to teach history, missing out all the slaughter and pillage and burning and going straight to the positive warm fuzzy stuff, and I am looking forward to the next round of textbooks.

"People in England and Europe did not get real holidays back then, so the Crusades were started as a way of getting some sunshine and exercise and to help people meet their Islamic counterparts in places like Jerusalem, for multicultural dialogue and a change of air."

"It was forbidden for Christians to lend money for interest, which meant that many Jews became moneylenders. This made them them tremendously popular and respected community members all across Europe."

"In 1588 the Spanish decided to go and visit England, in order to expand England's trading horizons, and a whole Armada of trading vessels set out on a visit. The English were so excited, they lit bonfires and gathered on the South Coast to welcome their Spanish Visitors. They even sent ships out to meet them. Unfortunately, the silly old British weather was against the Spanish, and most of their ships were wrecked and lost before they could land, which left the English very disappointed indeed."


Hi Neil,

Perhaps this should be directed to Julia Bannon, but I was wondering if I could suggest a page with an "In the works" list somewhere that basically gives us a checklist of things to be released. I know Wolves in the Walls is coming, as is the Neverwhere US DVD sometime in autumn, and 1602... it's just keeping track of the when's that becomes tricky. Thanks so much for listening!

Aloha, Fran

Good idea.

Currently, it's a safe bet that 95% of everything I've done in the last few years will be out between August and October 2003, making it look as if I'm suddenly all over the place.