The History Howlers; in Home Office's Guide to Our Past, Never Were So Many Blunders Made by So Few

Daily Mail (London), April 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

The History Howlers; in Home Office's Guide to Our Past, Never Were So Many Blunders Made by So Few


Byline: SARAH HARRIS

ITS aim is to teach immigrants seeking UK citizenship 'how to be British' - giving them an insight into the country's history, traditions and customs.

But a Home Office handbook, Life in the United Kingdom, is riddled with glaring errors.

Among other howlers, the 26-page section on British history - written by Professor Sir Bernard Crick - gets important dates and facts wrong and even misquotes Sir Winston Churchill.

Historians say it sets a poor example to newcomers to the country and makes a mockery of attempts to raise educational standards in schools. They fear schools may use the handbook during citizenship lessons, giving an inaccurate view of the past. But Sir Bernard has dismissed the complaints as 'absolute quibbling'.

The Historical Association submitted a seven-page list of typos, punctuation errors and basic mistakes to the Home Office last May and offered to do a rewrite.

But it claims the Home Office pressed ahead with publication in November and ignored most of the errors. Possibly the most outrageous blunder is misquoting Churchill's famous Battle of Britain tribute to the RAF in 1940.

He said: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.' But in the handbook, this is jumbled into: 'Never in the course of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few.' Writing in the Times Education Supplement, Sean Lang, honorary secretary of the Historical Association, said the association wrote to the Home Office about the errors in May and again in September.

The Home Office claimed it never received the original letter and eventually asked for help amending the text. Mr Lang wrote: 'The association replied that it was beyond redemption, but offered to write a new one.

'But this did not fit in with the HO's tight schedule, which is why you can now buy Sir Bernard's text, warts, typos (a surprising number), factual errors, sweeping generalisations, gross misrepresentations and all.' Mr Lang, author of British History for Dummies, yesterday condemned the mistakes. He said: 'I think it's an appalling example to set. It makes any talk of raising educational standards very shallow and very hollow. Those basic educational standards are to get your facts right.

'I think the chapter on history is so misleading and so inaccurate that it needs to be taken out, rewritten and rethought.

'This is explaining the history of the country to people who are new to it.

If you believe history matters, you have to get it right.' But Sir Bernard, architect of the school citizenship curriculum - who taught David Blunkett at university - called the association's corrections 'absolute quibbling'.

He told the TES: 'There are errors in it because it was done fairly quickly because we didn't want to keep immigrants waiting for their citizenship.'

Yesterday, the Home Office said some of the association's 'suggestions' had been incorporated into reprints.

THE ERRORS, FROM CELTS TO CROMWELL

CLAIM: Great Britain includes Northern Ireland, and also the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

REALITY: No it doesn't. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Great Britain includes England, Wales and Scotland.

CLAIM: In 1707 came the Act of Union with Scotland. The kingdoms of England and Scotland now became the United Kingdom and under one .ag - the Union .ag, often called the Union Jack.

REALITY: The 1707 Act created the kingdom of Great Britain. It wasn't until the 1800 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland that the United Kingdom was created.

CLAIM: Cromwell (left), won the battle of Worcester before invading Scotland. …

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