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The purposes of school history

On 10 May, in his farewell speech, Blair exposed one of the worst flaws in this approach, its liquidation of history. Looking back to when he was elected he said: "1997 was a moment for a new beginning - the sweeping away of all the detritus of the past."

This is Year Zero thinking, ignorant and wrong. The past, especially the historic inheritance of British politics, needed to be respected in order to be thoroughly replaced. It couldn't be "swept away" like so much rubbish. It was structural. What would replace it? A "new beginning"?

Nature abhors vacuousness. What replaced the detritus of the old constitution with its antiquated, informal checks and balances, its Lords and Knights was, in Blair's case, an even worse version of the same: naked, royal power exercised by an upstart, or as it is now called "sofa government". He fell back, or fell upon, the worst deep-structures of the old order, such as rule from above, glorification of "hard" power, imperial ambition, corruption. Just as the adage says... those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Anthony Barnett, on the Open Democracy website. Online at:




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