Letter: History may soon cease to exist

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am a retired civil servant and give occasional lectures on government to final-year undergraduates at the University of Wales, Cardiff. I was particularly struck, therefore, by Angela Lambert's article - 'What did Churchill do in the war, daddy?' (5 October).

I suppose it is not surprising that today's students have no direct memory of events that occurred even as recently as the Falklands: after all, most of them were not even in their teens at that time. Nor am I surprised that when I mention ministers that I served in the late Seventies and who were the household figures at that time - Keith Joseph's name springs to mind - the reaction is a total blank.

What does surprise me is the absence of even the short-term historical perspective that I, and I imagine others of my generation, absorbed from our parents. Thus, while I did not personally experience the First World War or the Depression, my parents and their generation did; and I learned not only directly from them but from the reading that was stimulated in me by their experience.

I wonder if this difference might, paradoxically, be due to the information explosion that this generation 'enjoys'. I had books, newspapers and the radio, which did not at that time swamp us in up-to-the-minute reports complete with pictures and pundits from every corner of the globe that made it unnecessary to think for oneself. And, above all, we had conversation.

The sheer excess may lead people to switch off and concentrate instead on only those concerns that can be seen to bear on one's personal life and that of one's contemporaries. Add to that the feeling of impotence in the face of a frightening world and can one wonder that the response is a shrug of the shoulders?

Yours faithfully,

IVOR LIGHTMAN

Lisvane, South Glamorgan

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