Towards the end of writing my ‘Patriot’s History’ book (see previous posts), and coming up to the present day, I found myself getting more and more opinionated. I’m sorry, but I can’t see Brexit as anything other than a huge mistake, and the people who misled the electorate into voting for it as other than short-sighted or malign, in one way or another. Boris’s lies are called out in the book (though I call them ‘fibs’, to soften the impact a little), and I make no secret of my distrust of his motives, and my poor opinion of the competence of most of his cabinet. I try to be fair to ‘both sides’, and my ultimate explanation for the Brexit fiasco is I think well argued and reasonable; but it may strike unsympathetic readers as a bit ‘left-wing’, and so lacking the objectivity that one should expect of a history book written by an academic. My response to this would be that I believe my interpretation to be based less on my present-day prejudices than on my knowledge of British history, which gives me the right, for example, to say that the present British government is the most incompetent and corrupt in history; and, secondly, on my conviction that this judgment will endure and be corroborated by future historians looking back on our times; unless, of course – which is perfectly possible – an even worse government intervenes, or the Age of Unreason finally comes upon us.
That being so – if it is so – why should I be prevented from saying it, simply because it may be taken to be partisan by readers at the present day? If I’m wrong, I shall be retrospectively punished for it in future history books. I remember from my school days that we were not allowed to study any history beyond 1914 (yes, 1914) on the grounds that more recent events no longer qualified as ‘history’, but as ‘politics’, which it was feared Leftist history teachers might turn into ‘propaganda’. (‘The General Strike? Far too controversial.’) But if I believe there are important historical factors, some of them coming from ‘the Right’, which helped to skew the 2016 referendum result, shouldn’t I be allowed to say so?
I really do believe that a study of history can shed huge light on present-day events; not in the form, necessarily, of ‘precedents’ or ‘lessons’, but by providing a broader context to what is happening, and so putting ‘Brexit’, in this instance, in its place. That’s one of the two main purposes of my ‘Patriot’s History’. The other is to demolish some of the more conventional kinds of ‘patriotism’, which rest on false or misleading views of modern British history. Most of those – but not all – are found, I’m afraid, on the ‘Brexit’ side.