The History Girls: The Personal and the Political, by H.M. Castor

Tucked away at the end of a platform at Bristol Temple Meads railways station, there are some photographs taken by Mark Perham (for a project called ‘Reverberations’ ) of people who work, or have worked, at the station. When I spotted them the other day, as I waited for a train, they moved me; they made me think how many people have given day after day, year after year of their working lives to that station. They made me think how precious are individual lives – lived only once. And they made me reflect, too, on the fact that when each person retires – or dies – that deep accretion of experience, built up over all those days and years, leaves with them.

I thought of this same point when reading coverage of the D-Day commemorations last week in Normandy. I was shocked to realise that, all too soon, the whole of the generation that served in World War II will have gone.

When I was growing up, it was the World War I generation that was elderly, whose numbers were dwindling; even so, I heard many desperately moving interviews with veterans on television and radio, and there were many men and women attending the yearly commemorations who had been there. The World War II generation, by contrast, seemed robust and all around me – energetic people in their 60s. My great-uncle told me stories of his war service in the Middle East and my grandfather (to my great delight) gave me the fascinating coins he’d collected while serving in North Africa – and his Army Ordnance Corps badges too. Although both wars were (of course) a very long way from my own experience, neither felt completely out of reach, since the thread connecting me to them was a living one. Knowing (or seeing) individuals who had been involved, and hearing them speak of their experiences, played a huge part in this sense of proximity and emotional connection. As my children learn now about the World Wars at school, I am aware how different it is for them: once a generation has gone, once the events they lived through have passed out of personal memory and into what we call ‘history’, that connection can never be quite the same…

via The History Girls: The Personal and the Political, by H.M. Castor.

UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

Although this post from kittysjones is not strictly within the remit I have set myself for First Night History, it does show very clearly what happens when the powers-that-be — in this case the UK government — ignore the past, wilfully or through ignorance, and thus repeat its mistakes to catastrophic effect. I am re-blogging it because I am disgusted and appalled that the Coalition, a government that was not elected, should have discarded everything our forebears stood and fought for. If you are a British citizen who will be voting in the European elections tomorrow, think very carefully how you vote. A vote for UKIP will mean more destruction and fear, not less.

Politics and Insights

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Over the past four years, we have witnessed the political right using rhetoric that has increasingly transformed a global economic crisis into an apparently ethno-political one, and this also extends to include the general scapegoating and vilification of other groups and communities that have historically been the victims of prejudice and social exclusion: the poorest, the unemployed and the disabled. These far-right rhetorical flourishes define and portray the putative “outsider” as an economic threat. This is then used to justify active political exclusion of the constitutive Other.
The poorest have been politically disenfranchised. Politically directed and constructed cultural and social boundaries, exclusionary discourses and practices create and define strangers. In Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of the Holocaust, the Jews became “strangers” par excellence  in Europe, the Final Solution was an extreme example of the attempts made by societies to excise the (politically defined) uncomfortable and…

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