The Leaf by Leaf Blogs
We have our own Leaf by Leaf Blog and a couple of our
authors also maintain their own. Vicky Turrell continues her very popular
series of 'Notes from the country' and
Wendy Lodwick Lowdon gives us informative reviews on her wenlowdwhispers.
The latest post from either of the above is shown below.
Reading history by a good writer is a wonderful antidote for blinkered thinking.
The news is currently full of views – quite divergent views – which opine on the same topic which concerns the outbreak of Corvid 19 and national and international efforts to contain the infection. They sometimes cite the same facts but more often haul statistics and sayings by experts, government appointees and members of the public, out closets, out of context and out of order which confuses our understanding.
Reading an historical account is a salutory reminder that such behaviour is not new. It is a reminder we are likely to fall victim to biased account and over-emphasis. It is interest of powerful and ambitious figures with invested interests to influence our thinking so their choice of direction is considered the preferred option; at the very least they will befuddle us enough that we are unsure about our objections and we cooperate actively or by default.
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey I read many years ago when I was at school and I read it several times again in the following decade. It was incredibly influential in that it jolted me into actively realising the story may not be as clear cut as it was made out to be by simple and sweeping history books. Certainly when it comes to the study of history the mantra should be ‘when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became an adult, I put away childish things.’ It is so hard to question all of the time, it is ‘nauseous’ to be in total free fall as to how much of what we know ‘in part’ is accurate and the degree to which the information is being distorted by people either deliberately or through vacuous acceptance or through ignorance.
In Daughter of Time Tey has her a fictional detective, Alan Grant, become interested in the guilt of Richard III concerning the murder of his nephews, Prince Edward and Duke of York Richard, in the tower. Shakespeare’s play, based on a manuscript written by John Mortimer and copied by St Thomas More, vilified Richard III as a murderer and his villainy is reported as such in children’s history books. With the aid of an American researcher, Brent Carradine, the two men conduct an investigation. The difficulty of finding information is exacerbated by the practice of Henry VII, who took the throne of England after defeating Richard III at the battle of Bosworth, of spreading malicious rumour, coercing reporta to be written in favour of the Tudor dynasty and the systematic removal of individuals who were related to Richard III through execution or imprisonment.
I think the most telling part of this very entertaining novel are the lines, ‘ It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with teller but with you. They don’t want to have their ideas upset……So they reject it and refuse to think about it.’ Several of the characters are bemused by Grant’s indignation concerning a king dead for over 500 years (544 now) as it doesn’t matter to the here and now. But the principle of integrity and justice has driven Josephine Tey to make it important to her central characters, and it has reminded me those qualities must be important to me.
Megalithomania by John Michell was such a wonderful title I was persuaded to read it and the book has not disappointed. It has been twenty years since Michell began his study and the result is careful, often droll, accounts not only of the megaliths but of the people who brought them to public notice. It is generously illustrated with wonderful black and white depictions of the megaliths.
The proponents of the historical, religious and social significance of the megalithic constructions in Europe, who were antiquarians, artists, writers and nationalist scholars, are celebrated by the author but he also makes very clear the limitations of their approach to their subject. Michell shows us the struggle to make the megaliths fit into an agenda or an orthodoxy or a painting which distorts the megalith itself. ‘The idea of the country (Sweden) as the homeland of the legendary Goths enthused the early Swedish antiquarians, especially after King Gustav II dogmatised it’ …. an Irish variety of which was in force in among some of his contemporaries Sir Thomas Moyneaux … Stuckley the clergyman propounded the ‘inspirational atmosphere of ancient sites’ and embarked for the rest of his life on ‘Druid propoganda’ … the true, native religion of Britain.’
Michell’s book is also about individuals ‘saving’ knowledge of megaliths even though many of them were wrecked by farming and appropriation and excavation. It is about how the thinking of the time altered the way in which the megaliths were regarded … monuments to builders who were ‘savage, harsh and short, ridden with fears’ and made sacrifices; as monuments to the dead and places for funerals; that they have magical properties; may have been astronomically orientated or situated on ley lines or carved with messages from the ancients.
Primarily Megalithomania reminded me of how willingly we see what we want to see.
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