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The truth "out there" is different

A couple of curiosities have come up recently concerning national identity and how it distorts (rightly or wrongly) one's view of things.

First was a map of national stereotypes based on Google searches for e.g. "what the English are known for". [via Mike]

Not sure what "aristocratic kitchens" are - kitchens that the owners never enter? - and I really didn't know the Swedes still carve Viking longboats at the weekend. Anyway, thought it was interesting as an emergent view of national stereotypes, and how easy it is to recognize rather than agree with them.

Second (and loosely connected) was a letter to the Times published last Friday title "Truth Exchange". Commenting on an initiative between Agincourt and an English school, one Dr Kerry Bluglass of Warwick wrote

Not long ago, a charming French acquaintance of mine asked me, in all seriousness, about the British habit of naming landmarks after French victories.

"Which ones?", I inquired.

"Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Station," he replied. I was completely unable to convince him of the true outcome of these battles, and I later discovered that this view is not unusual in France."

Popular history, it would seem, might not written by the victors (be they French or British). It could be written by the group you're in. And that's a little terrifying.


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Ah ah ah ! Either this Frenchman has a wicked sense of humor, or a severe (and unusual) lack of historic knowledge.
I am sure this Dr Bluglass would not count such an illiterate person as one of his acquaintances, so I guess this Frenchman was (unsuccessfully) trying to have some caustic retort to the -presumably just as ironical- welcome that is made to Frenchmen arriving in London by train (at Waterloo station), and couldn’t be serious.
For sure there also is a plenty of ignorant people that could get messed up between victories and defeats we do not care very much about nowadays…
However, regardless on which side of the channel you stand (you guess mine), these two battles in particular are famously regarded as unquestionable victories of the Britons on the French. In both countries, History tends to be written by historians and is becoming rather consensual.
Not saying History books are impartial worldwide though, but between Britain and France that kind of infantile game really is over, isn’t it?

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