Letter: Alfred the forgotten

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The Independent Culture
Sir: School pupils' non-interest in the Anglo Saxon period ("Anglo Saxon history fades from exams", 14 July) may be due to the ignorance of it displayed by "progressive" teachers.

As 26 October is generally agreed to be the 1100th anniversary of Alfred the Great's death I suggested last year to the British Tourist Authority that a theme for 1999 might be Alfred the Great/Anglo-Saxon Heritage Year. The idea whipped up considerable apathy - except in Winchester, Alfred's Wessex capital, which already had plans, including the archaeological search for his tomb.

Talking to some of the mainly very young people who run tourism, I got the impression that they knew little about Alfred or Anglo-Saxon history. Yet our historical heritage is a prime attraction for most high-spending North American tourists.

By contrast, a Moscow University graduate who was my guide in Gorbachev's USSR not only had encyclopaedic knowledge of Russian history and culture, but could quote from Beowulf in Old English and from Chaucer in Middle English!

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