➤ Killing a king tells you who you are — so do your haircut and shoes

execution, painting,1649,Banqueting House , King Charles I

One of Schama’s six epic moments in British history: the execution of King Charles I in 1649, painted by John Weesop. Source: The Gallery Collection/Corbis

The Look, Rock & Pop Fashion❚ SHAPERS OF THE 80s? A STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE or an antidote to complacency about the present? Let’s hope the vintage yarns on the inside pages of this website provide a constant foil to the topical blog posts on the front. Even on the pop-cultural timeline, parallels deliver insights: parallels between the Swinging 60s and the Swinging 80s, and what feels highly likely in 2010 to become the Swinging Tens. The signposts to every British youth cult since World War Two have always been the haircut and the shoes, as we’re constantly reminded at that absorbing online version of the book The Look: Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion. So keep your eyes open.

What caused this momentary validity-check was an exhilarating read in today’s Guardian headlined “Kids need to know they belong”. Don’t wince when you hear that it amounted to a vigorous exhortation to schools that are failing to teach to the hilt the dreaded H-word, history. The history of how we came to execute our king, for example, gets short shrift from the national curriculum.

“Irreverent freedom” is a special aspect of life in Britain. “The endurance of rich and rowdy discord” is another. This was telly-don Simon Schama getting into his eloquent stride. Who needs history, he asked? Our children, of course, if they are to know who they are, and whose imaginations risk being held hostage in the cage of eternal Now… In full fig, Schama succinctly listed the benefits of examining the past:

To the vulgar utilitarian demand, ‘Yes, all very nice, I’m sure, but what use is it?’, this much (and more) can be said: inter alia, the scrutiny of evidence and the capacity to decide which version of an event seems most credible; analytical knowledge of the nature of power; an understanding of the way in which some societies acquire wealth while others lose it and others again never attain it; a familiarity with the follies and pity of war; the distinctions between just and unjust conflicts; a clear-eyed vision of the trappings and the aura of charisma, the weird magic that turns sovereignty into majesty; the still more peculiar surrender to authority grounded in revelation, be that a sacred book or a constitution invoked as if it too were supernaturally ordained and hence unavailable to contested interpretation.

➢ Read My vision for schools by Simon Schama
— six key events from the past that no child should miss out on

King Charles I, execution, warrant

Death warrant of King Charles I (1649): Showing the signatures and seals of 59 of the commissioners who tried Charles I, including that of Oliver Cromwell. This document directly led to the execution of the king, the abolition of the monarchy, and the consequent establishment of a republic to govern England for the only time in its history, between 1649 and 1660. © Parliamentary Archives

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