a major one must be the generally dim and dingy role that Britain plays today on the world stage, as well as the various ailments that afflict society at home. A people that is no longer making history looks to the past for reasons to feel proud.I'm sceptical. I know the papers are peppered with pieces on Britain's renewed declining status. This week, The Spectator makes it their cover story. I'm sure I'm not alone in not giving a flying feck about this. I care about the national debt and the tax rises that are down the pike. But all that nonsense about punching above our weight and managing to keep up the special relationship - I would think 90% of the population couldn't care less.
I think the real reason for history's rising popularity is that it isn't really taught very much in our schools any more and hasn't been for quite a while. Wasn't it virtually dropped from the national curriculum a few years ago? Now that people haven't been put off at school by all that stuff about dates, or more recently, having to imagine you are a peasant on the Long March - not a particularly useful exercise when I did it, as a 15-year old, West Country lad who knew nothing about China, let alone Mao, communism, nationalism, peasants, civil war, etc, etc. - they grow up to have a genuine and unjaded curiosity about the past. They're free to enjoy the good bits of history, the great stories and intriguing explanations. Something of a paradox.
I somehow managed not to get put off. My enthusiasm was only really fired, though, when I was lucky enough to be assigned a fantastic teacher in the sixth-form. Rather than doling out a typical school lesson, he gave us the most brilliant, thought provoking, idea- and character-filled lectures. Probably way above what we should have expected, but it worked for me. It's rather frightening how a chance assignation of a teacher can shape your life.