Burying Our Complex Past

When major political figures die, history is put on hold and the simplicities of myth take over, argues Tim Stanley.

To praise or bury? Baroness Thatcher's coffin is carried on a gun carriage during her funeral procession, London, April 17th, 2013. Getty/Matt DunhamThe funeral of Margaret Thatcher was a fine example of the construction of history. Not only did it reflect on Britain’s recent past, but it also helped us place current events in a historical framework, creating a story from which we can piece together our present identity. ‘Thatcher fixed Britain’, said the right-wing mourners, ‘and we must replicate her policies today to save it from recession.’ ‘On the contrary’, cried the left-wing protestors. ‘Thatcher broke Britain and David Cameron is repeating her mistakes.’ Neither group was 100 per cent accurate, but when it comes to inventing national myths the facts are less important than the themes.

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