Bluffers Guide to British History

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN READE

JACK STRAW wants Britain to re-learn its history and develop its own "national story" to counter the threat of extremism.

Which is probably not a bad idea since his call came on the same day as the release of a sobering survey that showed many adults believe Leeds Castle is in Yorkshire and Hadrian's Wall is in China.

Mr Straw wants us to forge a sense of common citizenship through learning the "British Story" - everything from the Romans to the Second World War and beyond. So, to combat this outbreak of Jade Goody-scale ignorance, Brian Reade offers you his own version of what put the Great in Great Britain...

THE ROMAN OCCUPATION (AD 43-410)

A SHOWER of swarthy, bored men in frocks knocked the pitchforks out of our hands and enslaved us. They called the land Britannia, thus giving birth to 1,000 pubs and a building society.

They also gave us straight roads which meant ancient Britons could walk between London and Chester four-times quicker than it now takes a Virgin West Coast train.

They showed us how to get rid of our sewage (a forerunner to Reality TV) and gave us vomitariums and orgies and left us to the Barbarians. Like most city centres on a Saturday night.

BATTLE OF HASTINGS (AD 1066)

YOU might know this simply as the day Norman King William beat the Saxon King Harold by firing an arrow into his eye. But thanks to Norman spin doctors it's gone down as far more significant than that.

Like Labour's victory in 1997, it's been billed as The Day The Dark Ages ended. They even made a cheesy propaganda film about it called The Bayeux Tapestry. (Or When Billy Met Harry) and passed a law proclaiming all Saxons were Dogs, and all Normans Non-Frogs.

MAGNA CARTA (AD 1215)

ON first viewing this looks very interesting, but unfortunately it is not Olde Englishe for a Crate of Magners. It is a debt-collect ors' char ter, written entirely in Latin, meaning only those who wrote it understood it. It raised plenty of money for the government, gave nothing to the common person and kept the ruling class sitting pretty. We have something very similar every March, called The Budget.

PEASANTS' REVOLT (AD 1381)

THE Great Rising, which marked the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England, came about after a Poll Tax was forced on the people to fund foreign wars. (This is very similar to Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax, only she wanted the cash to wage local wars - against trade unionists, teachers, single mums and anyone else who wasn't a Tory). Two of the leaders were John Ball and Jack Straw - not to be confused with Zoe Ball's dad and Condi Rice's toyboy.

BIG DATES IN HISTORY

1415: The Battle Of Agincourt... Darling Larry Olivier at his very best.

1453: 100 Years War ends - after 116 years. Government under pressure to put maths on the National Curriculum.

1455: War Of The Roses... Great, great (x12) grandmothers of Jane Seymour and Elizabeth Hurley in battle over their perfume ranges. …