Historians and the Great Britons
Hugh Brogan looks at the BBC’s great debate on the greatest Britons.
Now we know what it is to be marginalised. As the BBC’s hugely enjoyable ‘Great Britons’ competition unfolded, the irrelevance of professional historians (school, university, or other) was painfully demonstrated. They could not be totally excluded, and Tristram Hunt performed wonders for Isaac Newton, but on the whole the ten broadcasts were dominated by journalists such as Jeremy Clarkson and Rosie Boycott and politicians like Mo Mowlam, and the votes of the mass audience sadly showed how little the television world values the virtues of historical teaching and scholarship: accuracy, for example, scepticism, archival learning, narrative skill and, above all, the gift of discerning and asking sensible questions.