Saturday, 23 July 2016

1066 And All That

A comment on a previous post puts it:

As you know the working class movement in England has always regarded itself as a kind of twin anti-colonial struggle with Ireland's, in this case against the theft of England itself, the very land of England, in 1066. The Panama Papers brought all that out again, with people asking when the root cause of the whole problem was going to be tackled. 

Earlier this year, Giles Fraser also set out how important the continuing understanding that England was subject to "the Norman yoke" has remained through every stage of social and political radicalism ever since.

He does not mention it, but the concept was still powerfully deployed into the twentieth century by those seeking the completion of the franchise, and by the Labour Movement. 

You can date the problem to various events: the Norman Conquest, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Enclosure Acts. You would be correct to do so in every case. 

The feeling on this is very profound, although of course it is lost on people who got the Michael Gove pub quiz version of history.

That does seem to be most people who grew up in the South, whatever their backgrounds. Tory councils, I suppose. But who votes for those councils? 

Even those, though, have never been able to quell the popular memory of, and anger at, perhaps the greatest of all the yoke's crimes, the pointless mass slaughter of the First World War. 

The ongoing responses to the centenary of that suggest that it is the nearest thing to a national mythos, indeed that it is one entirely, articulating the fact that an entire people is defined by its oppression at the hands of an essentially alien power.

That power was not Germany. It still isn't.


  1. Everything in Britain is really about the top table callousness of the First World War. If you look for it, you can see it everywhere in our culture and politics.

    1. Everywhere.

      It really came to the fore in 2014, and it will again in 2018.