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Secret History (i)

Anthony Seldon considers when and why history ends and current affairs begin.

The dividing line between history and current affairs has challenged many of the best minds for centuries. Today educationalists, historians and hangers-on are locked into a major debate over it. No equivocation, however, for Kenneth Clarke, the Education Secretary: current affairs began thirty years ago, when history stops. Would that the matter were so straightforward.

So when exactly does history end, and current affairs begin? Britain has a more conservative approach than many other countries, including the US, France or Italy. History, with a capital 'H', is what historians (preferably from Oxbridge, the genuine ones) do. Historians have only recently begun to discover the inter-war period in earnest. So, grudgingly, they might say that History continues up until 1939. After that? Current affairs, a non-serious subject fit for mulling over by the social sciences, but not yet ready for the attention of historians. Sorry, Historians.

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