CHF 2024: Day 2

The first two mornings of the festival are given over to the excellent schools’ programme.
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CHF 2024: Day 2

The first two mornings of the festival are given over to the excellent schools’ programme.  Busloads of youngsters descend on the site and get a special programme of talks and tours.  The accompanying teachers all report game changing levels of new found enthusiasm.  James Holland’s D Day and Monte Cassino talks received a many thumbs up.

Britain’s Pagan Heritage, Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton is a national treasure and Chalke regular. His talk about pagan Britain took two subjects, Stonehenge and Lindor Man (bog man in the British Museum), and described the various contested theories – what was Stonehenge for?  How did Lindor Man die?  Was Stonehenge a healing temple or a Druidic sacrificial site?  Was Lindor man ceremonially killed or was he simply the victim of a routine beating?

Hutton made a plea for a more ‘pluralistic’ approach to history, ‘in keeping with the spirit our times’, whereby historians are up front about the limits of their understanding, admitting doubt, and allowing the public an opportunity to make up their minds. Hard to get funding for TV shows without a bold dramatic finding or conclusion though.

An African History of Africa: From the Dawn of Humanity to Independence, Zeinab Badawi

Zeinab is a familiar face from her years at the BBC. Having made a multi part BBC series about African History, she picked up her pen for this book. Eschewing the traditional approach which takes colonial Africa as its start point, she begins 7 million years ago and ends at independence. We are all descended from Africans, she reminded us, and this shared ancestry makes understanding African history all the more relevant.

Our Island Stories: Country Walks Through Colonial Britain, Corinne Fowler

There’s been something of a shift this year at Chalke, with more representatives from the iconoclastic, revisionist and anti-colonial woke brigade. Nobody better represents this trend within academia than Corinne Fowler who is so appalled and ashamed of our past she has devoted her career to identifying the terrible things that previous generations did in her books Green Unpleasant Land and Walks Through Colonial Britain. She has targeted the country’s great port cities, country houses and now has ordinary villages and families in her sights.

It’s an established feature of identity politics that victimhood is encouraged and celebrated. Fowler spent the first part of her talk explaining how aggressive the media had been towards her after she wrote the National Trust report into its colonial past.

Fowler would have been appalled that I spent the evening in the company of people whose ancestors would not have lived up to her high moral standards. I won’t name names but, as the final whistle blew on the uninspiring England Slovenia football match, we raised a glass to those who went before us. History is about learning not judging, and there is great danger if historians shackle themselves to political projects such as wokeism.

Justin Doherty is Editor at Large at Aspects of History. Head to the CHF site here where tickets are available.