How not to criticise creationists.

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How not to criticise creationists.

Postby Michael » Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:15 pm

Sorry for a long post but here are two recent reviews of an anti-creationist book, one eulogising it in the RNCSE and one in Anvil and Anglican journal. The two are slightly different!

Michael

The Creationist Debate: The Encounter Between the Bible and the Historical Mind
by Arthur McCalla
London: T&T Clark International, 2006. 288 pages

Reviewed by J David Pleins

Originally published in RNCSE 27 (1-2): 42-43. The version on the web might differ slightly from the print publication.
It is a curious war story.

Where other authors might see in the centuries from Galileo to Phillip Johnson a war between religion and science, McCalla carefully recounts the real battle: the struggle between reactionary religion and a belief that seeks understanding.

The first volleys were thrown in the Renaissance and the Reformation. McCalla identifies the challenge of Galileo's day as not simply the telescope, but the shift in consciousness away from seeing nature and the Bible as realms of symbol toward the Reformation's "plain sense" view of Scripture and the world. This is McCalla's thesis in a nutshell: Mechanical-mindedness about nature, when coupled with historical-mindedness about the Bible, necessitates a new view of both God and Nature.

Despite the hankering to unlock nature's mechanics, creationists have not been able to give up their addiction to "purposiveness". John Ray saw purposes in the wind and male nipples. It was jarring to move away from such purposiveness to a world view dominated by extinction, imperfection, and lack of providential planning. Major steps were taken when Hooke and Steno unlocked the fossils: "Mother Nature had become a woman with a past," McCalla writes. It would be a while before the earth's deep time would be comprehended. In the meantime, Thomas Burnet constructed a fiery engine for the earth's geology within the confines of a biblical chronology. Christian historical consciousness worked overtime on the biblical clock, even as global explorers encountered civilizations with calendars far more ancient than the Bible's.

The historical bug bit hard in the Age of Exploration as Erasmus, Valla, Cappel, Simon, La Peyrère, and a host of others began to look at the Bible as any other document, one marred by textual corruptions and betraying an ancient mentality. Removing Moses from the pantheon of biblical authors brought a new consciousness about the foundations of Christianity itself. As the Bible became a local map of the Jewish landscape, its usefulness for navigating history's broad waters was diminished forever. With Matthew Tindal, Thomas Paine, and the rise of Deism in the 18th century, it would not take much to treat the Bible as just one more fanciful collection of ancient anecdotes. As deep time came into view with the unwrapping of the primary and secondary rocks, biblical frames were put to further tests. Then, as Cuvier sequenced the animal strata, the biblical picture was undone completely. Entire worlds long forgotten were discovered in the Book of Nature that gleaned neither a jot nor a tittle in sacred scripture. The Bible had no frame for this new historical horizon. The cosmic shakeup wrenched hearts like Tennyson's (McCalla gives us ample extracts) and stirred John Ruskin to exclaim, "If only the Geologists would let me alone, I could do very well, but those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses."

Charles Darwin, of course, was a creature of his time, searching for design and worrying about the Bible's frame. He was also a creature of his time in following a new tributary, letting science and not the Bible dictate what he discovered. Neither male nipples,the misery of the world, nor the basis of human morality was designed by God, as far as Darwin could tell.

The conservative Christian reaction to all this was predictable, if not instructive. They were bothered by the science but perhaps more so by the moral wilderness created by evolutionary secularism. Liberal Christians, for their part, went so far as to re-invent the Fall of Man and the concept of the eternal soul, weathering the theological storm for a time. But by the end of the 19th century, as even the human mind was seen by many to be a product of evolution, theology of the liberal sort could not constrain science's profound shift in human historical consciousness.

The 20th century became one long century of conservative Christian "special pleading". To be sure, fundamentalists were not entirely literalistic about Genesis 1, at least at the start. Key figures like Bernard Ramm insisted that while Darwin's mechanism was wrong, still the Bible and a kind of evolution could be blended. Yet louder voices like those of Billy Sunday, Dwight Moody, William Bell Riley, and Gresham Machen prevailed against any belief in evolution. The Scopes trial was one skirmish on this anti-evolutionary revivalist battlefield. For a time, conservative Christians continued to accept an old fossil earth alongside their anti-evolutionism, but the plain reading of Genesis 1 encouraged Whit-comb and Morris in the 1960s to champion literalism with a vengeance. The rise of "intelligent design" has reinforced this anti-Darwinian tendency, as in the name of microbiology and information theory, its proponents seek to revive Paley's design view while clashing swords with secular scientists and liberal religionists.

McCalla's is a well-told tale. Invariably, however, even in such a comprehensive book there will be chapters left to tell. As biblical "higher criticism" developed in the 19th century, archaeological adventurers discovered Assyrian and Babylonian creation myths that paralleled the Bible, underscoring the mythic character of Genesis. Liberal Christians have found something powerful in religion's mythic side and this story deserves telling. Also, given the press coverage of William Ryan and Walter Pitman's book Noah's Flood, I am surprised that McCalla overlooks more recent attempts to put Genesis on a secularized historical basis. The Bible's legends may have compelling historical origins worth considering. Lastly, the world of modern Christian evolutionists goes untouched, omitting discussion of such figures as Teilhard de Chardin, John Polkinghorne, John Haught, Arthur Peacocke, and Kenneth Miller. There are religionists who remain committed to combining Darwin and religious belief in a non-rejectionist fashion. Their story deserves to be heard alongside "intelligent design" reactionism.

These are really minor criticisms. McCalla's book is well worth adding to your collection. No one has brought all the key players under one roof and done so this crisply.

Author's Address
J David Pleins
Department of Religious Studies
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara CA 95053
jpleins@scu.edu

J David Pleins is Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University and the author of When the Great Abyss Opened (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).


Arthur McCalla

The Creationist Debate:The Encounter between the ninle and the Modern Mind
Continuum International, 2006, xiv 222pp

£19.99 ISBN 0 8264 8002 0

Here is a book that seems to be full of promise as it puts the whole Creationist Debate into its historical context, and considers the theological, scientific and philosophical issues surrounding the question of evolution, which has come to the fore in recent years. It is a clear and well-written book and describes the history of science, especially of geology and its vast ages, evolution and human antiquity, all in historical context and leads up to the rise of biblical criticism and Fundamentalism. The book concludes with two chapters on Creationism. The concept of the book is excellent as it seeks to understand Creationism by considering it in the history of Christian thought. This is something I have been striving to do since I first came across Creationism in 1971, when no one in Britain had heard of it!

However, the volume is so badly flawed that is simply misleading. The flaws are both of interpretation and factuality, and the latter are too numerous to mention. He claims (p139) that Gosse wrote Omphalos in 1857 to counter The Origin of Species written in 1859 – a clear case of pro-chronism! His grasp of science is very poor as is shown by his confusion on radiometric age-dating claiming it began with Carbon 14 dating in 1950 whereas it began with Uranium-Lead in 1907 (p137). He consistently does not understand things geological and has read good historians of geology like Rudwick in a very slapdash way. He is simply inaccurate when he describes the work of the early geologists Smith, Sedgwick, Buckland, Lyell and Murchison, as he is on Darwin himself.

For interpretation he reckons that the essence of a liberal Christian is to accept geological time and its implications for Genesis (p83, 118). He is blissfully unaware that Adam Sedgwick was an Evangelical (as conservative as Francis Close) and Buckland and Conybeare were definitely not Broad Church. Many of the early British geologists were Evangelical – an inconvenient fact. Despite reading Livingstone’s Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders(Eerdmans 1987) he can’t cope with evangelicals accepting Darwin’s evolution, as some (H.B.Tristram) did from 1858 (note the date) and later Warfield to mention only two. His chapters on The Bible in America and Fundamentalism are unhelpful and prejudicial.

When it comes to Young Earth Creationism it is clear that he has never read The Genesis Flood (published in 1961) as he claims that it is like Gosse’s Prochronism in Omphalos. McCalla understands “creationism” no better than the history of science and fails to grasp either the origin or beliefs of Intelligent Design.

The whole book gives the impression of a rushed and superficial job by one who knows little science and only slightly more about the history of Christian thought, but who knows how to write a marketable book. Here lies the rub; the reaction to creationism in all its forms has created a demand for “explanation”. Far too often, these are superficial works based on little research. How this book got published by a reputable publisher I do not know, but anti-creationsim like creationism finds a ready market. It might help his RAE but not the reader.

Michael Roberts,
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Postby Krijimbesuesi » Sat Dec 22, 2007 11:21 am

Interesting post Michael, as always. However let me tell you the problem I have with the common description of Sedgwick & co. as evangelicals. In a nutshell, I find this to be basically misleading even while being nominally correct.

The word "evangelical", of course, had its genesis and original definition in a church context where all Christians believed in the plain historicity of Gen. 1-11. In other words, it arose as a result of a previous theological conflict addressing quite different questions from those that grew to prominence in the early 19th century. Therefore I question its relevance as a factor in assessing whether 19th-century British Christians adequately handled the great issues of their day, and so I don't automatically assume that because a given individual falls within the classification developed in the mid-18th century or earlier, they have an ipso facto head start in facing the new challenges.

This is a good example of the distinction I like to make between "static" and "dynamic" orthodoxy. I define the first as the knowledge of, and ability to vindicate, the formulae and definitions that emerged from past theological controversies; while the second, sadly much rarer, is the ability to do that essential pioneering work on which future generations may securely rest. It's a matter of applying Luther's famous charge about fighting the battle precisely where the world and the devil are attacking.

To take another example: suppose that in the 4th century the Arians had protested saying, "Look, we're not Judaizers, or Gnostics, or Marcionites, or Montanists, or Patripassians, or Docetists. We hold the orthodox position against all these errors. Isn't that enough?" Well no, it wasn't, because all those were "yesterday's heresies". Likewise Pelagius may have been "Athanasian", but again, that's just "static" orthodoxy up to a point and no further.

Satan is too subtle to allow the battleground to stay in one place for very long. Battlelines are always shifting, and these days it seems like they shift profoundly once a generation or even faster. Much mischief is allowed to happen when Christians fail to reckon on the craftiness of their enemy.

Returning to the "Sedgwick set", I surmise that one reason they failed to think through the consequences of their approach was that Britain at the time was in the imperial ascendent, and moreover seemed a very "Christian" country. Both these factors would have induced considerable complacency in British Christians generally, so that they slipped into feeling that there was no national moral danger in letting Genesis' historicity go. But we, from the perspective of 2007, seeing what a moral mess the post-imperial country has now sunk into, ought to realise the prophetic pertinence of this warning by Sedgwick's theological arch-critic Henry Cole writing in 1834:

‘What the consequences of such things must be to a revelation-possessing land, time will rapidly and awfully unfold in its opening pages of national scepticism, infidelity, and apostacy [sic], and of God’s righteous vengeance on the same!’

And by the same token, it may be precisely Britain's present sorry state as compared to the 1820s that is now causing increasing numbers of Christians - yes, mostly "evangelicals" - to return to the old paths in this matter. Just a thought; I'd be glad to hear how you account for it.
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Postby Roger Stanyard » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:03 pm

Krijimbesuesi wrote:
Satan is too subtle to allow the battleground to stay in one place for very long. Battlelines are always shifting, and these days it seems like they shift profoundly once a generation or even faster. Much mischief is allowed to happen when Christians fail to reckon on the craftiness of their enemy.


Oh, so mainstream science is all the result of satan then? [/quote]

Krijimbesuesi wrote:Returning to the "Sedgwick set", I surmise that one reason they failed to think through the consequences of their approach was that Britain at the time was in the imperial ascendent, and moreover seemed a very "Christian" country. Both these factors would have induced considerable complacency in British Christians generally, so that they slipped into feeling that there was no national moral danger in letting Genesis' historicity go. But we, from the perspective of 2007, seeing what a moral mess the post-imperial country has now sunk into, ought to realise the prophetic pertinence of this warning by Sedgwick's theological arch-critic Henry Cole writing in 1834:

And by the same token, it may be precisely Britain's present sorry state as compared to the 1820s that is now causing increasing numbers of Christians - yes, mostly "evangelicals" - to return to the old paths in this matter. Just a thought; I'd be glad to hear how you account for it.


Bullshit. The latest Church census confirms that the number "white" of evangelicals in Britian continues to decline; it is increasingly a black movement - of those very people who were enslaved and treated like dirt in your allegedly more moral the past. Strange isn't it that crime rates in the UK have been falling for years and we still get this moronic Daily Mail drivel rolled out as substantionated and reasoned fact.

basically what you are saying is the same tired old tripe of the Religious Right in the USA. Unless we are all extreme fundamentalists we are all going to hell in a handcart. Speak for yourself, pal.
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Re: How not to criticise creationists.

Postby Roger Stanyard » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:12 pm

Michael wrote:The Creationist Debate:The Encounter between the ninle and the Modern Mind
Continuum International, 2006, xiv 222pp

£19.99 ISBN 0 8264 8002 0

Here is a book that seems to be full of promise as it puts the whole Creationist Debate into its historical context, and considers the theological, scientific and philosophical issues surrounding the question of evolution, which has come to the fore in recent years. It is a clear and well-written book and describes the history of science, especially of geology and its vast ages, evolution and human antiquity, all in historical context and leads up to the rise of biblical criticism and Fundamentalism. The book concludes with two chapters on Creationism. The concept of the book is excellent as it seeks to understand Creationism by considering it in the history of Christian thought. This is something I have been striving to do since I first came across Creationism in 1971, when no one in Britain had heard of it!


I can't say that I have read the book and probably won't given your review. Neveretheless, what has worried me over a long time is the lack of decent books that look at why the creationist movement has taken off in the second half of the 20th century and, more importantly how. Methinks that heavy reliance on history falls far short of answering these key questions and why creationism is so prevelent in the USA (and, by and large, not elsewhere). The nearest I have seen is Chris Hedges book, American Fascists, but it is only a partial explanation which leaves a lot of gaps open.

I rather like Hedges work, though. He has no axe the grind against religion because he is part of mainstream religion. He thus concentrates on the issues which I am criticising (basically fundamentalism).

The trouble is that few have taken his approach. What has happened is that attitudes towards religion (for and against) appear to be polarising, partly because of the excesses of the Bush administration but, methinks, mostly because fundamentalism is now highly politicised. Billy Graham saw the danger to evangelism (IIRC) in the late 1950s and 1960s although he never hade the wits about him to steer clear of Richard Nixon. It seems to me to be the world's stupidest idea to make fundamentalism synonomous with hard right politics. It is guaranteed to cause a major fight.

What we have now is a whole waft of new books, from one side the New Atheists and from the other side attacks on the New Atheists. There is nothing in between attractive to the middle ground or, indeed, interesting. There needs to be a few more books by the likes of Ron Numbers that home in on the key issues of fundamentalism, not religion in general.

I have to say that I think the fundamentalists are doing immense damage to mainstream religion, tainting, in the eyes of many amongst the public, religion with clowns, extremism, bigotry, arrogance and utter ugliness. Mainstream religion really needs to fight back.
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Postby Michael » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:17 pm

Can you tell WHEN all Chrsitians beleived in "the plain historicity of Gen 1-11"? Definitely not before 1500, it was the majority view in the 16th century but definitley not since then.

As for the 18th century, Chrsitans were divided but not controversially. Some opted for 6days, others by the original creation followed be re-ordering in 6 "days" which may or may not be a solar day , or a long extended day. It was no test of orthodoxy. You can read what I said in a paper in Evangelical Quarterly April 2002 or a chapter in the Geol soc of London Special Publication 273 Myth and Geology (2007)

It is a myth that all Christians accepted Gen 1-11 as plain history before the geologists came along, though this is put forward both by YECs and those who accepted the conflict thesis of sciecne and theology as you find in A D Whites book of 1896.

Much of what you write is weird - what about American evangelicals who also accepted geology - Silliman Hitchcock etc not to mention the many later that cnetury.

You need to expalin why Sedgwick and many others in the early 19th century got both their geology and theology wrong and I hope you can do a little better tahn Mortenson

I have read Cole and find him a bigot of bigots.

Yes too many evangelicals are reverting to literalism and adopting YEC today. Apart from their bad theology they ignore the whole misrepresentation which goes with YEC.

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Postby Michael » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:19 pm

A good post Roger.

There are few decent books on the subject, though Greenwood Press should be publishing one next year

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Postby Roger Stanyard » Sat Dec 22, 2007 11:03 pm

Krijimbesuesi wrote:Interesting post Michael, as always. However let me tell you the problem I have with the common description of Sedgwick & co. as evangelicals. In a nutshell, I find this to be basically misleading even while being nominally correct.

The word "evangelical", of course, had its genesis and original definition in a church context where all Christians believed in the plain historicity of Gen. 1-11. In other words, it arose as a result of a previous theological conflict addressing quite different questions from those that grew to prominence in the early 19th century. Therefore I question its relevance as a factor in assessing whether 19th-century British Christians adequately handled the great issues of their day, and so I don't automatically assume that because a given individual falls within the classification developed in the mid-18th century or earlier, they have an ipso facto head start in facing the new challenges.

This is a good example of the distinction I like to make between "static" and "dynamic" orthodoxy. I define the first as the knowledge of, and ability to vindicate, the formulae and definitions that emerged from past theological controversies; while the second, sadly much rarer, is the ability to do that essential pioneering work on which future generations may securely rest. It's a matter of applying Luther's famous charge about fighting the battle precisely where the world and the devil are attacking.

To take another example: suppose that in the 4th century the Arians had protested saying, "Look, we're not Judaizers, or Gnostics, or Marcionites, or Montanists, or Patripassians, or Docetists. We hold the orthodox position against all these errors. Isn't that enough?" Well no, it wasn't, because all those were "yesterday's heresies". Likewise Pelagius may have been "Athanasian", but again, that's just "static" orthodoxy up to a point and no further.

Satan is too subtle to allow the battleground to stay in one place for very long. Battlelines are always shifting, and these days it seems like they shift profoundly once a generation or even faster. Much mischief is allowed to happen when Christians fail to reckon on the craftiness of their enemy.

Returning to the "Sedgwick set", I surmise that one reason they failed to think through the consequences of their approach was that Britain at the time was in the imperial ascendent, and moreover seemed a very "Christian" country. Both these factors would have induced considerable complacency in British Christians generally, so that they slipped into feeling that there was no national moral danger in letting Genesis' historicity go. But we, from the perspective of 2007, seeing what a moral mess the post-imperial country has now sunk into, ought to realise the prophetic pertinence of this warning by Sedgwick's theological arch-critic Henry Cole writing in 1834:

‘What the consequences of such things must be to a revelation-possessing land, time will rapidly and awfully unfold in its opening pages of national scepticism, infidelity, and apostacy [sic], and of God’s righteous vengeance on the same!’

And by the same token, it may be precisely Britain's present sorry state as compared to the 1820s that is now causing increasing numbers of Christians - yes, mostly "evangelicals" - to return to the old paths in this matter. Just a thought; I'd be glad to hear how you account for it.


Doe anyone in this forum understand what this person is talking about?
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Moved to Scripture Debate

Postby Brian Jordan » Sun Dec 23, 2007 12:04 am

Clearly not a general discussion, so I've moved it to the Scripture debate.
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Postby ukantic » Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:41 pm

Krijimbesuesi wrote:But we, from the perspective of 2007, seeing what a moral mess the post-imperial country has now sunk into,

Yep, bring back the good ole days, like before those evil, no good athelutionists came along & ruined everything. They may well have been hard, but after a morally upright hard day in the workhouse, you could at least go for a quiet drink

“By 1750, over a quarter of all residences in St Giles parish in London were gin shops, and most of these also operated as receivers of stolen goods and coordinating spots for prostitution as well (Loughrey and Treadwell, 14). Hogarth's Gin Lane is located in St. Giles, and the most shocking figure in it is the drunken mother. This mother is only a partial exaggeration, however, for, in 1734, one Judith Dufour had provided at least one model. Her two-year old child had been placed in a work house, and there it had been given clothing and tended. Dufour reclaimed her child, strangled it, and left the infant's body in a ditch so that she could sell the clothes (for one shilling, four pence) and buy gin (George, 41).”

If you ask me that’s taking personal enterprise just a little too far.:)

See also:

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/post ... .html#hon1

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Postby Roger Stanyard » Mon Dec 24, 2007 10:13 am

ukantic wrote:
Krijimbesuesi wrote:But we, from the perspective of 2007, seeing what a moral mess the post-imperial country has now sunk into,

Yep, bring back the good ole days, like before those evil, no good athelutionists came along & ruined everything. They may well have been hard, but after a morally upright hard day in the workhouse, you could at least go for a quiet drink

“By 1750, over a quarter of all residences in St Giles parish in London were gin shops, and most of these also operated as receivers of stolen goods and coordinating spots for prostitution as well (Loughrey and Treadwell, 14). Hogarth's Gin Lane is located in St. Giles, and the most shocking figure in it is the drunken mother. This mother is only a partial exaggeration, however, for, in 1734, one Judith Dufour had provided at least one model. Her two-year old child had been placed in a work house, and there it had been given clothing and tended. Dufour reclaimed her child, strangled it, and left the infant's body in a ditch so that she could sell the clothes (for one shilling, four pence) and buy gin (George, 41).”

If you ask me that’s taking personal enterprise just a little too far.:)

See also:

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/post ... .html#hon1

Alan,


Yep, and then there was the rampant homophobia, mysogeny and racism - pretty prevelent right up until the tide began to turn in the, uh, liberal 1960s - that era th fundamentalists hate. Strange, isn't it, that time and time again, the researchers find that religious fundamentalism in the deep south of the USA was part and parcel of and driven by racism.

Let's have a look at Rhodesia - formed right at the end of the allegedly highly moral Victorian era. Well, Rhodes and his pals gained control of the place by cheating on the local black leaders, then invaded the place with a mercenary army and ran it as a private commercial company until 1923. If the blacks caused any trouble - well, they shoved them into caves and chucked sticks of dynamite in. How did the British people treat their own people? Well we let a million of them die of starvation in Ireland in the hungry forties. Ireland was another money making machine scam.

I always ask the question what would happen if such a famine arose today. There would be massive aid from the UK. Nearly all of that money would not come from fundamentlists. So, is the UK more, or less, moral than it was in the Victorian era or any alleged "golden era" of the past? Somehow, I don't think the fundamentalist self-serving re-writing of history stacks up (again). Their "history" is as idiotic and fraudulent as their "science".

The reader is also reminded, again, of just who is financing the scam of Intelligent Design. Why, its Howie Ahmanson who for 25 years sat on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation and financed it. Morality? Well that organisation's includes killing people if they blaspheme, commit adultery, have sex before marriage (women only, surprise, surprise), are apostate, criticise religious fundamentalism, are gay or are children who don't respect their parents.

You don't have to dig far into fundamentalism to find a deeply nasty and immoral movement, full of self-serving bigoted and intollerent truimphalism, arrogance, dishonesty and deceipt. It's riddled with it. It stinks to high heavens.
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How not to criticise creationists.

Postby Anonymous » Mon Dec 24, 2007 4:56 pm

There are few decent books on the subject, though Greenwood Press should
be publishing one next year

What would the reference be?

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Postby Peter Henderson » Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:14 pm

Two history series that I've particularly enjoyed over the last few years have been (1) Simon Schama's history of Britian and (2) David Starkey's Monarchy. Again, two excellent programmes that could be used as teaching aids in schools (although Michael is probably going to point out the inaccuracies of both :wink: )

There where certain periods of British history in particular that I found really interesting.

(1) The period before William the Conqueror. It was interesting that he received such a bad press by the programmes (he was portrayed as being extremely brutal) and yet prior to this (before britain was a united country), people like Alfred the Great were shown to be really kind etc.

(2) The so called glorious revolution of 1688 etc. and the ascendency of Prince Wiliam of Orange to the throne of England. I found out quite a few things I didn't know about him. At the end of the day, the political alliances in these islands and beyond really have been shaped by what were in effect glorified "family fueds".

(3) The period that Krijimbesue is referring to as the "good old days". Simon Schama's portayal of that time is very similar to Alan's link to the talk origins website. Not a period of history I would like to return to. Certain English political parties have of course harked back to that era. (remember the disastrous "back to basics" capaign of the early nineties ?). Thanks but no thanks.
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Postby Roger Stanyard » Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:28 pm

Peter Henderson wrote:Two history series that I've particularly enjoyed over the last few years have been (1) Simon Schama's history of Britian and (2) David Starkey's Monarchy. Again, two excellent programmes that could be used as teaching aids in schools (although Michael is probably going to point out the inaccuracies of both :wink: )

There where certain periods of British history in particular that I found really interesting.

(1) The period before William the Conqueror. It was interesting that he received such a bad press by the programmes (he was portrayed as being extremely brutal) and yet prior to this (before britain was a united country), people like Alfred the Great were shown to be really kind etc.

(2) The so called glorious revolution of 1688 etc. and the ascendency of Prince Wiliam of Orange to the throne of England. I found out quite a few things I didn't know about him. At the end of the day, the political alliances in these islands and beyond really have been shaped by what were in effect glorified "family fueds".

(3) The period that Krijimbesue is referring to as the "good old days". Simon Schama's portayal of that time is very similar to Alan's link to the talk origins website. Not a period of history I would like to return to. Certain English political parties have of course harked back to that era. (remember the disastrous "back to basics" capaign of the early nineties ?). Thanks but no thanks.


There has been a lot of debate about Alfred over the last decade or so. I'm not a historian but suspect that it was fueled by a book which basically tried to debunk him, suggesting that virtually all we know about him was written as a hagiography by the monk Asser. It is therefore very biased From what I can make out, the debate has now swung away (again) from that position.

Of course, Britian until quite well into the 19th century was basically run by and on behalf of the aristocracy (in the House of Lords) and their tenants (in the Commons). What buggered all that up was the Irish famine which resulted to the repeal of the corn laws. After 1870 the UK was flooded with cheap food imports and the landowners and their tenents found the vakue of their assets collapsing.

I suspectthat there is still an element of the Whig interpretation of history in popular understanding of British history. It's a pity but my own experience of the teaching of British history, right up to undergraduate level, is that it is not well taught. It's too insular.

For what it is worth, I think I did myself a big favour after leaving university to understand the history of Ireland. Without that, there is a huge gap in understanding British history. It is not a matter of sympathising with Irish nationalism. I really don't think anyone can understand British histry without understanding that Ireland was, until well into the 19th century, run as a colony and money making machine, not as part of a democracy. That's the reason, for example, why British police today are still unarmed. As you know the RIC was armed (it was basically a light infantry organisation) and predates the British police forces. Peel knew that the Irish approach couldn't work on the mainland. It's little things like that which helps put the whole thing in perspective.

Machiavelli would have been proud about the way the English ran Ireland for centuries. But then, my own bias is that I am, unlike David Starkey, no fan of the British Empire. After 1870 (and possibly well before that) it was a huge liability that held us back, both socially and from an economic perspective. It also wrecked vast numbers of societies and held them back as well.

If you haven't seen it Peter, take a look at Simon Sharma's comment on the Battle of the Boyne. It's actually very chilling and sobering. He asks the audience who won the Battle and replies to his own words "nobody". That was Sharma at his best - challenging the audience's preconceptions.
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Postby Peter Henderson » Mon Dec 24, 2007 9:54 pm

If you haven't seen it Peter, take a look at Simon Sharma's comment on the Battle of the Boyne. It's actually very chilling and sobering. He asks the audience who won the Battle and replies to his own words "nobody". That was Sharma at his best - challenging the audience's preconceptions
.

Yes, I did see that part Roger and found the question a very Poignant statement. What interested me, especially in the light of this place (NI), was that William's wife was catholic and that he (William) was closely related to King James who he defeated. I wonder how many so called loyalists here actually realise this ? I think Sharma also played a couple of clips from Paisley's and Adams' speeches to re-emphasize the point.

There has been a lot of debate about Alfred over the last decade or so. I'm not a historian but suspect that it was fueled by a book which basically tried to debunk him, suggesting that virtually all we know about him was written as a hagiography by the monk Asser. It is therefore very biased From what I can make out, the debate has now swung away (again) from that position.


Starkey seemed to suggest (if I remember correctly) that Alfred managed to unite the shires and also feed the population, leaving them in a state of relative prosperity. I also found it interesting that Harold was closely related to William the Conqueror. As I say, many of these battles seem to have been glorified family fueds.

Both series were excellent television, far better than watching the X-Factor !

Since I wasn't that interested in history at school, I found both were very informative. I must buy the DVDs.
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Postby Roger Stanyard » Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:12 am

Peter Henderson wrote:Yes, I did see that part Roger and found the question a very Poignant statement. What interested me, especially in the light of this place (NI), was that William's wife was catholic and that he (William) was closely related to King James who he defeated. I wonder how many so called loyalists here actually realise this ? I think Sharma also played a couple of clips from Paisley's and Adams' speeches to re-emphasize the point.


I'ts even more ironic than that because WIlliam was from a republic! Oh dear, Catholic Republicans!

Moreover his invasion force for England was bigger than that of the Spanish armada.
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