I’ve always been interested in history, and the history not just where I live but other places too, distant places, places I’m never likely to visit. One of my first books – and how I wish I had it now, was a collection of stories of famous people; of course, when I say people, I mean men, because in the days when I was little women in history, apart from Boadicea and Elizabeth I, women didn’t appear. Back to my book of heroes, I believe there was Alexander the Great, Lief Erikson, Harold Godwinson, and others of that martial ilk. When I went to school, in those enlightened, open days where being educated was more than passing exams and target setting, we were fortunate in also having some excellent teachers. We began with the history of where we lived, Cambridge, and then to a wider history – Hereward the wake out in the Fens fighting the dastardly Normans, then to the history of Midsummer Fair. I think after that we did the Norman Conquest… and we must have done more, but I don’t remember what. That early experience in history led me through the subject at school, on to doing it for A-level ( utterly ghastly, the Norman Conquest, and the Angevins) and then to studying a much broader history – political, social and economic as part of my degree.
Since then I’ve read books, watched films and programmes, visited museums, exhibitions and historic sites, and altogether thought I had a fair knowledge. Just recently I came to an absolutely shocking realisation, I was horrified, and ashamed I’d never realised this before. I confess, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, I know barely anything about Welsh and Scottish history apart from when the descendants of those Normans and Angevins set their armies to take control of these separate countries and peoples. I have the sketchiest of ideas of what happened, what their history is. I know much more about Ireland, but even that is slim. I was taught British history – but in fact it was a very selective English history, and mainly the history of the rich and powerful.
I realise that my reading list is going to change over the next months to include more books about history with an eye to filling in the blanks, and I’m going to search out programmes on TV and YouTube. I’m sure I will enjoy learning more, it wil be like doing a jigsaw where I have most of the pieces, not just a random selection!