Why does Britain – and indeed every country – like to mythologise its past?

Why are we so fixated by our triumphant past and has it helped or hindered us? Has this hankering after a British ‘golden age’ held us back? James Rampton talks to Al Murray about our view of history

Thursday 21 October 2021 21:30
<p>Flying the flag: Al Murray aka the Pub Landlord in an 18th-century military uniform </p>

Flying the flag: Al Murray aka the Pub Landlord in an 18th-century military uniform

Carrying a mighty sword, the Pub Landlord is sitting astride a gigantic green missile in front of an enormous Union Jack and two hefty cannons. He is the epitome of over-the-top jingoism. In typically bombastic fashion, he declares: “We, the Brits, have an untouchable track record when it comes to international punch-ups. Why, we haven’t lost a war in over 1,000 years.”

He continues in his trademark vainglorious style: “This country is currently in the undefeated World War Champion of the World, fighting at all weights. We have a proud history of defeating all comers. Why, we even had a war against the French that lasted One Hundred Years, the Hundred Years’ War, and the reason it lasted a century is that we were enjoying winning it so much, we spun it out for the full ton.

“The Germans had two cracks at the world title, which you have to respect, but they came up short. The Americans think they defeated us, whereas what we were actually doing was dropping them before they became too much trouble – and look at what an excellent decision that was. A victory no doubt, whichever way you look at it.”

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