Monday, November 28, 2011
As I was crossing the road today I was musing vaguely about “A Pageant of History” and its English-centricity. (Why do I only ever muse vaguely, since I retired, I wonder? I really must start using the brain again one of these days.)
What I was musing about was whether Wales or Northern Ireland got much of a mention in this book. And the answer is: Wales got two whole pages (out of 348) and Northern Ireland got – none. And you can maybe see that the two pictures in the chapter on Llewelyn ap Gruffydd are: 1) the creation of the (English) Prince of Wales in 1911 - the future King Edward VIII (though the authors didn't actually mention him by name, since he didn't turn out to be a great British success story) and 2) the emblem of the Prince of Wales. Neither of these seem the Welshest possible illustrations that could have been chosen.
The rest of the world did get occasional mentions via explorers or poets, while Some Famous Dwarfs got four pages.
The book was written somewhat before the age of political correctness. The last paragraph of the "Dwarfs" chapter reads: “Meanwhile a perfectly proportioned midget is worth far more than his weight in gold to the showman today. For modern audiences are just as fascinated by these intriguing little people as were the kings and queens of old.” Can you believe that this was written in 1958?
As for the chapter on David Livingstone, “The man who opened up the dark continent”…
It's so interesting how attitudes change. And no doubt in 2060, people will be laughing and cringing at our way of looking at the world.