Letter: Losses and gains on Britain's historical journey

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paul Johnson exhibits an outdated anglocentric approach to history. He mentions that 'doom- mongering' is a tradition 'that goes back to a time before England existed', but seems to have forgotten that England is not the same as Britain. The two words are used throughout his article as if they are interchangeable.

Britain did not exist as a state until the union of Scotland and England in 1707, yet Mr Johnson wrote of events in England before this time as if they represented the history of the British Isles as a whole.

He mentions that 'the country . . . with the exception of the century 1350-1450', has experienced growing living standards. But which 'country' is he speaking of? He mentions that as a child he studied 'our history', in which 'the last conquest of England' (the Norman invasion) represented the last threat to 'our national sovereignty'. But whose history and whose sovereignty? English sovereignty and history is spoken of, without the mention that Wales, Ireland, and Scotland have their own histories, and all have suffered losses of their national sovereignty since 'the last conquest of England'.

The 'lessons of history' that Johnson attempts to gain were perhaps correct, but it is discrediting that he bases his conclusion on an approach bristling with ambiguities, and amounting to English history in a British disguise.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL DAVIDSON

Edinburgh

8 March

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