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Britain has more living symbols of its past than many countries.

It still has a royal family and a small nobility. Its capital, cities and countryside boast many ancient buildings, castles, cathedrals, and the "stately homes" of the nobility. Every year there are historical ceremonies, for example the State Opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor's Show, or the meeting of the Knights of the Garter at Windsor each St George's Day. It is easy to think these symbols are a true representation of the past. Britain's real history, however, is about the whole people of Britain, and what has shaped them as a society. This means, for example, that the recent story of black and Asian immigration to Britain is as much a part of Britain’s “heritage” as its stately homes. Indeed more so, since the immigrant community’s contribution to national life lies mainly in the future.

When looking at Britain today, it is important to remember the great benefits from the past. No other country has so long a history of political order, going back almost without interruption to the Norman Conquest. Few other countries have enjoyed such long periods of economic and social wellbeing.

It is also important, however, to remember the less successful aspects of the past. For example, why did the political views of the seventeenth-century Levellers or nineteenth-century Chartists, which today-seem so reasonable, take so long to be accepted? Why did the women's struggle to play a fuller part in national life occur so late, and why was it then so difficult and painful? Why is there still a feeling of division between the north and south of Britain? Is Britain, which in many ways has been a leader in parliamentary democracy, losing that position of leadership today, and if so, why?

The questions are almost endless, and the answers are neither obvious nor easy. Yet it is the continued discussion and reinterpretation of the past which makes a study of Britain's history of value to its present and its future.









































































Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1358

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