History but Not My Story

I’m currently working on a family history project to do with the end of the British Empire, which is how come I found this time-line on a website I stumbled across yesterday called Nations’ MemoryBank. It’s the first part of an overview of the 20th Century, running just over the millennium border up to the present, and what a peculiar overview it is – I thought it was satirical at first glance. The ‘supported by the Daily Telegraph’ logo at the bottom may give a clue as to why the historical landmarks featured have been picked out (I haven’t edited them in any way – there’s nothing between the events listed below). I have taken the liberty of [reading between the lines in square brackets]…

2005 Suicide bombers kill 52 people on London’s transport system [be afraid of foreigners]Civil partnerships give same-sex couples legal rights [uh oh, gays]
2001 Islamic terrorists crash aircraft on targets in New York and Washington [be very afraid of foreigners, they cause disasters]
1997 Labour wins the general election, with Tony Blair as Prime Minister [what a disaster]Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris [another disaster, probably caused by drunk foreigners – they’re such crap drivers even when they’re sober]
1994 First women priests are ordained by the Church of England [uh oh, women]
1992 Channel Tunnel opens, linking London and Paris by rail [oh no, we’re connected to foreigners now]
1984 12-month ‘Miners’ Strike’ over pit closures begins [uh oh, workers]IRA bombers strike at the Conservative conference in Brighton [be afraid of foreigners]
1982 Argentina invades the British territory of the Falkland Islands [more bloody foreigners]
1981 Racial tensions spark riots in Brixton and other areas [uh oh, blacks]
1979 Conservative Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first female Prime Minister [a ray of hope]IRA kill the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten [be afraid of foreigners]
1978/1979 Strikes paralyse Britain during the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’ [uh oh, unions]
1978 World’s first test-tube baby is born in Oldham [uh oh, scientists]
1973 Britain joins the European Economic Community [be afraid of foreigners – they’ll rob us of our sovereignity…]
1971 Decimalised currency replaces ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ […and our heritage – it makes much more sense to count in twelves]

6 comments so far

  1. ArkAngel on

    “It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing
    with the same set of facts.”

    Bill Vaughan, journalist (1915-1977)

  2. Louise on

    Excellent meta dialogue but I would take issue with your “[a ray of hope]” after “first female Prime Minister” which I think should really read “[uh oh wimmin]” as at the time even the Tory press didn’t support Thatcher.

  3. ArkAngel on

    Take your point but think this is written with hindsight through blue-rinse tinted glasses

  4. practical psychologist on

    Take issue with Louise here. I remember The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Sun being very, very pro-Thatcher in 1979. They were certainly anti-Thatch in 1975 when she became leader but I don’t recall them being so in 1979 when she got elected.

    The Torygraph has always had the Bufton Tufton brigade who don’t want to see women in any realm apart from the bed, the kitchen and looking after children but I recall the paper itself being pro Thatch in 1979. I remember my father spouting editorials out of the paper back then (as he still does now) as though anyone who thought differently had something wrong with them.

  5. Louise on

    Ok, I was 7, they didn’t really cover it in Bunty (although you may have been younger and just really switched on).

    I would say that you underestimate the sniping that goes on whilst ostensibly supporting a candidate (, I’d be interested to know who popularized the phrase “grocer’s daughter”, for example (it wasn’t Billy Bragg, was it?).

  6. practical psychologist on

    Well Ted Heath was known for a while as ‘the grocer’ so it was probably easy to refer to her as the grocer’s daughter as she was one and also Heath’s successor. She quickly disabused the world of any heathite connection!

    Both were not the traditional Tory figures and I think you are right to suggest that a lot of sniping went on behind the scenes from the upper middle classes towards the self-made.

    13 in 1979.

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