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The Marxism of Horrible Histories Terry Deary delighted in subverting children's minds

Saved from the enormous condescension of posterity (Horrible Histories/BBC)

Saved from the enormous condescension of posterity (Horrible Histories/BBC)


June 22, 2023   6 mins

Of all historians, living and dead, one has changed the way we think about history more than any other. Yet he remains curiously absent from feuilletons and podcasts. Terry Deary has never been one for self-promotion. So although anniversaries are customarily celebratory, it is only fitting that, on the tricenary of his Horrible Histories, we quickly pass over the scale of his achievement, obvious by any standards — 270 books; north of 35 million copies sold; West End productions; television spin-offs; “interactive” boat tour — and home in on the aspect of his work that has been curiously neglected: his politics.

To be considered national treasures, and indeed to truly capture the national imagination, children’s authors paradoxically need a loyal adult readership to supplement their youthful one. But Deary has never enjoyed the crossover audience of a Pullman or a Rowling. Nor has he advertised his politics the way his antipode, Roald Dahl, once did (“Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on [the Jews] for no reason”). Scarcely a jot is known about the anchoritic Deary. Only kids read — more accurately, worship — him. The adults they grow up to be might hazily remember the guts and gore, piss and shit — but not his worldview, internalised at an undiscerningly early age.

The Marxism of Horrible Histories, then, has flown under the radar. Deary himself is aware of this. Likening himself to a “sneaky propagandist”, lacing his tales with subversive ideas, he takes pleasure in his camouflaged transgressions: “I’m poisoning the minds of children.” His invitation is always the same: come for the ribaldry, stay for the radicalism. Beneath the comical carnage (“history with the nasty bits left in”) and Mailesque addiction to alliteration (Rotten Romans, Vile Victorians, Groovy Greeks, Vicious Vikings) are hymns to the pluckiness of the common man.

When asked by The Times to name his favourite historical figure, Deary replied “Mr and Mrs Peasant” — better than some “bloke stuck on a column in Trafalgar Square”. Accordingly, he’s rather sympathetic to the peasants who beheaded the archbishop of Canterbury in 1381: the clergy had it coming, extracting free labour and tithes from serfs. “Just to rub in the fact the Church was making a fortune, the bishops stored their ill-gotten goodies in huge tithe barns,” he writes in The Peasants’ Revolting Lives (2020). “Imagine if you were a hungry peasant walking on your way to your frozen field and having to walk past that barn stuffed with the bishop’s food,” he asks his reader. “These tithes and their monstrous barns may explain why peasants targeted the clergy when they rose.”

Deary, of course, is a republican. “Slimy Charlie thought he could rule without” Parliament, he says in The Slimy Stuarts (1996), explaining why Charles I “got the chop” in 1649. When the late “Lizzie the Last” (“because the monarchy will never survive Charles”) visited Durham, Deary turned down a meeting: “Sod the Queen.” Years later, he had this to say to the Guardian: “My top character is Margaret Wilson, a Covenanter from Scotland, who preferred to drown rather than say God save the King.” The honours system elicits a similar reaction: “Knighting people who’ve done bugger all, while carers [and] nurses get no recognition at all. It breaks my heart.” Class conflict, for Deary, was key.

Imperialism, it seems, is just as awful as the monarchy. “Brutal Britannia” was, along with Belgium, “one of the most evil empires in the world”. Barmy Britain (2008), his most impassioned book, chronicles the “dreadful deeds down under”, the decimation of the entire population of Tasmania — some 20,000 aborigines — by British guns and germs in the nineteenth century. This at a time when more Brits than not were “proud” of empire. In Deary’s account, empire was not about saving souls or preaching progress but rather “money, money, money”. The Royal Navy’s victory in the Opium Wars made “Brit drug dealers very rich … and the Chinese very dead”.

Crucially, Deary’s history isn’t just a dreary tale of oppression. He emphasises native agency. We get a life story of, for instance, the freed slave Olaudah Equiano, whose gut-wrenching memoir — liberally quoted in Barmy Britain — went a long way in securing abolition. Kids, by contrast, are taught an altogether different story in school, one that the economic historian Eric Williams encapsulated when he wryly remarked that it is “almost as if Britain introduced Negro slavery solely for the satisfaction of abolishing it”. Deary takes a dig at “batty Boswell”, who defended slavery on the ground that slaves were a “cheerful” lot that liked their station: “Of course, Mr Boswell wasn’t a slave, was he?”

Deary’s distaste for the establishment derives from his own personal history. Born in post-war Sunderland — father a butcher in a slum, mother a shop manager — Deary is from “a terribly poor background”. He recalls an unhappy childhood, being “beaten, bullied, and abused at school by the teachers, not the pupils”. His hostility to authority and formal schooling was carried into adulthood. Indeed, it can be felt throughout Horrible Histories. The series’ conceit — always — is: here’s the “real history” your teachers have kept away from you.

Deary has elaborated on the theme in interviews, describing schooling as “an ancient Greek idea that the Victorians borrowed to get kids off the street. It’s fundamentally wrong.” These days, “a bunch of clueless muppets in Whitehall are determining what children learn”. To what end? To “pass your exams so you can get a job and make money and be happy. What a lot of codswallop.” He would rather not be read than wind up on a reading list: “I shudder when I hear my books are used in those pits of misery and ignorance.”

Deary’s ideal reader, then, is a child rather like him: a sceptic tired of being hoodwinked, and talked down to, by the establishment. Both the style and substance of Horrible Histories reflect his penchant to stick it to condescending elites. “I’m not a historian…I want to change the world,” he says, echoing Marx. “Attack the elite. Overturn the hierarchy. Look at my stories and you’ll notice that the villains are always, always, those in power. The heroes are the little people. I hate the establishment. Always have, always will.”

This, needless to say, is particularly refreshing in a land whose popular historians are overwhelmingly of aristocratic stock, excepting the odd Home County and North London subaltern — public schoolboys to a man. Think Hugh Thomas, David Gilmour, and John Julius Norwich. Deary, meanwhile, was apprenticing as a butcher from the age of three, and spent his mid-twenties touring rural Wales with a theatre troupe. Acting, however, was not his calling. He settled in Suffolk, teaching drama and moonlighting as a writer. Fifty titles appeared in half as many years. Success came late.

It was only in his late-forties, in 1993, that the first Horrible Histories were published: Terrible Tudors and Awesome Egyptians. Fame and fortune followed two years later, with Blitzed Brits, timed for the 50th anniversary of VE Day. The story of blunders from on high with devastating consequences for ordinary people, children agreed, was bracing when contrasted with the blimpish jingoism of conventional histories. Its pendant, The Woeful Second World War (1999), tackled the Holocaust, substituting instruction for humour — never a key ingredient in Deary, for whom politics comes first. Indeed, quips and gags are secondary in Horrible Histories.

Beyond the pale in Thatcher’s time — a time of riots in Brixton, Section 28, and imperial adventurism in the Malvinas — Deary’s politics are not unusual, and in fact fairly palatable, nowadays. For the last 30 years have witnessed an astonishing liberalisation of social attitudes. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious belief, support for the monarchy — all are on the decline. The years bookended by the publication of the first and most recent Horrible Histories have been marked by nothing less than the collapse of social conservatism. There’s a correlation here; of course, a causation mustn’t be assumed. It is, all the same, fair to suggest that, on account of his impressively robust sales and impressionably young audience, Deary has played a greater part in shaping public opinion than most public intellectuals have. Indeed, he belongs in the company of Christopher Hitchens and Anthony Giddens.

For some hundred years now, Marxist historians have preoccupied themselves with, in E.P. Thompson’s celebrated phrase, rescuing the lower orders from “the enormous condescension of posterity”. A few of them have done so with remarkable success. Eric Hobsbawm’s histories of brigands and peasants, for instance, are read in garrets and grandes maisons from São Paulo to Shanghai. Yet a truly mass following has been wanting: not a million readers scattered across capitals but tens of millions in a single country. It is the latter that counts for impact.

Ruled for all but 31 of the last 100 years by the Tories, Britain is unquestionably a conservative country. This is reflected in historical tastes: the lower sort of biography turning on the lives and wives of great men; sporting and starlet hagiographies; an instinctive suspicion of social history. For the Left and its historians, breaking into bestseller lists has always been a Sisyphean task.

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci used to carp about the “cultural hegemony” of the ruling elite, which gave it an edge in class conflict, shepherding mass aspirations through the tamer channels of politically disengaged entertainment. In his homeland, this became dispiritingly true in the age of Berlusconi, by which time the Left was vanquished and a television audience hooked on watching seemingly demure housewives take their clothes off on his networks.

Britain has been somewhat luckier. No, the Left has never enjoyed cultural hegemony in this sceptred isle, but it has one rather formidable champion of mad, bad, and dangerous Brits in Terry Deary, a Marxist culture warrior avant la lettre. Who knows, perhaps someday the English Civil Wars will more widely be known as the English Revolution.


Pratinav Anil is the author of two bleak assessments of 20th-century Indian history. He teaches at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

pratinavanil

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Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
1 year ago

`imperial adventurism in the Malvinas’; you mean the Falkland War where Argentina without provocation attacked the island, and Britain had to defend it? The islanders had voted overwhelmingly to not become part of Argentina, should we have just let the Argentinians march all over the Falklanders right to self determination?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda M Brown

Good point. And the author’s mindless celebration of Deary’s spiteful, vulgar, partisan and above all ignorant accounts of history, designed not to elevate the working class but to fill them with unjustified resentment against their own society, is undermined by her quotation from his view of Charles Ist. Compare Deary’s crude bile with the words of one of parliament’s champions: “He nothing common did or mean etc”. Common and mean describe Deary precisely, along with this miserable article.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“Knighting people who’ve done b****r all, while carers [and] nurses get no recognition at all. It breaks my heart.”
It is a telltale sign. Anyone expressing a view in these terms is fundamentally dishonest

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Much as i fear deary, and racist hate mongers in general – he kind of has a point – the honours system and the nauseating Louis XVI spectacles of Ascot, Glastonbury et al are doing more for mob based politics than Corbyn, Benn and Stalin combined.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I though Glastonbury was where Corbyn received rapturous applause – not exactly Ascot is it. As for Ascot surely horse racing is where the toff and commoner have enjoyment in common. It is true neither are Urban pleasures but I fear you are a few centuries out of date if you think there are Sans-culottes festering in the urban slums ready to coalesce into a mob and tear the aristocrats from their carriages. I think Sir Keir Starmer and assorted Lordly retreads from politics are safe from mob violence.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Half the population of Quislington will be at Glasto.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Half the population of Quislington will be at Glasto.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

It was more the suggestion that nurses and carers were deserving of honours

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I though Glastonbury was where Corbyn received rapturous applause – not exactly Ascot is it. As for Ascot surely horse racing is where the toff and commoner have enjoyment in common. It is true neither are Urban pleasures but I fear you are a few centuries out of date if you think there are Sans-culottes festering in the urban slums ready to coalesce into a mob and tear the aristocrats from their carriages. I think Sir Keir Starmer and assorted Lordly retreads from politics are safe from mob violence.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

It was more the suggestion that nurses and carers were deserving of honours

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

He’s got a point though. Have a trawl through the honours list and a good chunk are there simply for backscratching various Prime Ministers

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It was more the suggestion that nurses and carers were deserving of honours

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

He said “more” deserving, and I tend to agree with him

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

He said “more” deserving, and I tend to agree with him

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It was more the suggestion that nurses and carers were deserving of honours

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Much as i fear deary, and racist hate mongers in general – he kind of has a point – the honours system and the nauseating Louis XVI spectacles of Ascot, Glastonbury et al are doing more for mob based politics than Corbyn, Benn and Stalin combined.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

He’s got a point though. Have a trawl through the honours list and a good chunk are there simply for backscratching various Prime Ministers

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Why are his accounts of history ignorant? Which parts do you think are incorrect, or are simply going to label everything he says and does as wrong because he’s more left wing than yourself?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Any soi-disant historian as partisan and judgmental as Deary is ignorant by definition. You think Charles the First “slimy”? His enemies by common consent were impressed, even daunted by the regality of his manner. And this is wholly consistent with going to war against him – a nobler, broader, more cultured attitude by far than Deary’s spiv-like carping.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Denis
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You do realise the books are designed for children don’t you? Therefore using colourful descriptions of the characters in them helps to keep the kids engaged. A 200 page book full of dull heavy prose marketed at children isn’t going to be very successful is it

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So it’s OK to lie to children? How very left wing!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Are you suggesting the facts in the books are wrong? If so could you point out some examples of these lies?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You do keep trying to move the goal posts, don’t you? One minute the excuse goes up that the books’ vulgar bias can be excused because they are for children; and the next minute it’s all about ignoring the bias in favour of a nit-picking demand for this or that factual inaccuracy. The lie is found in the bias and in the partial selection of facts – got that? Of course, your reply will be: “I thought not” – or some such smug, nifty little evasion – but readers can tell when a sophist is on the run and squirting out the ink of misdirection in his wake and that is how they will identify you.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Give me an example of the vulgar bias then, or factual inaccuracies. Either will do

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Give me an example of the vulgar bias then, or factual inaccuracies. Either will do

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You do keep trying to move the goal posts, don’t you? One minute the excuse goes up that the books’ vulgar bias can be excused because they are for children; and the next minute it’s all about ignoring the bias in favour of a nit-picking demand for this or that factual inaccuracy. The lie is found in the bias and in the partial selection of facts – got that? Of course, your reply will be: “I thought not” – or some such smug, nifty little evasion – but readers can tell when a sophist is on the run and squirting out the ink of misdirection in his wake and that is how they will identify you.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Are you suggesting the facts in the books are wrong? If so could you point out some examples of these lies?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So it’s OK to lie to children? How very left wing!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You do realise the books are designed for children don’t you? Therefore using colourful descriptions of the characters in them helps to keep the kids engaged. A 200 page book full of dull heavy prose marketed at children isn’t going to be very successful is it

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Any soi-disant historian as partisan and judgmental as Deary is ignorant by definition. You think Charles the First “slimy”? His enemies by common consent were impressed, even daunted by the regality of his manner. And this is wholly consistent with going to war against him – a nobler, broader, more cultured attitude by far than Deary’s spiv-like carping.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Denis
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“Knighting people who’ve done b****r all, while carers [and] nurses get no recognition at all. It breaks my heart.”
It is a telltale sign. Anyone expressing a view in these terms is fundamentally dishonest

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Why are his accounts of history ignorant? Which parts do you think are incorrect, or are simply going to label everything he says and does as wrong because he’s more left wing than yourself?

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda M Brown

He’s just trolling, bless him. Leave him be.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda M Brown

Good point. And the author’s mindless celebration of Deary’s spiteful, vulgar, partisan and above all ignorant accounts of history, designed not to elevate the working class but to fill them with unjustified resentment against their own society, is undermined by her quotation from his view of Charles Ist. Compare Deary’s crude bile with the words of one of parliament’s champions: “He nothing common did or mean etc”. Common and mean describe Deary precisely, along with this miserable article.

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda M Brown

He’s just trolling, bless him. Leave him be.

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
1 year ago

`imperial adventurism in the Malvinas’; you mean the Falkland War where Argentina without provocation attacked the island, and Britain had to defend it? The islanders had voted overwhelmingly to not become part of Argentina, should we have just let the Argentinians march all over the Falklanders right to self determination?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Seems a rather long bow to draw. Yes his books have always rooted for the underdog and celebrated the pompous and powerful getting their comeuppance (a rather British trait as witnessed by the early rounds of the FA Cup every season) which is part of their appeal, but to imply they’re some kind of subversive Marxist plot to indoctrinate children is pushing it in my opinion.
Besides, what he has said isn’t wrong. Charlie did get the chop because he tried to bypass parliament, and empires were forged primarily to enrich the main country, and they did a mixture of good and terrible deeds in the colonies.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

As an American kid who loved history but found most history in school to be insultingly oversimplified, Horrible Histories were wonderful reads. What kid with a mischievous intellectual streak would not love learning all the nasty, gruesome, and hilariously ironic bits that are sanitized out? Also as someone who is not a fan of Marxist theory, who cares as long as the information presented is accurate? Just because I hate some falsified lefty revisionism projects like the 1619 Project does not mean I want more propaganda, just of a different flavor. Here is an idea and I know this might sound crazy, but just encourage kids to read a lot from a variety of sources and viewpoints.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
Tim Smith
Tim Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

As a thought experiment, substitute marxism for nazism. Then see if you still feel the same way.
The remember that the number of deaths due to marxism is largely unknown but almost certainly amounts into the hundreds of millions between Russian (maybe about 60 million) and China (largely unknown but somewhere between 40 million and 80 million) alone – this ignores countries like Cambodia.
The total deaths under Nazism btw is estimated at about 17m.
It is harder to think of a more ruthless and violent philosophy than marxism.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

What does that have to do with some children’s history books? I can’t say I ever saw them promote either Communism or Fascism to be honest, are you suggesting that the latter is a good ideology because it killed less people than the former?
Also we’ve no idea how many people Fascism would have killed if it hadn’t been soundly defeated relatively quickly by the Allies, whereas Communism dragged on in various guises for well over half a century. If they’d both lasted for similar timeframes the final score may have ended up much closer

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Both Fascism and Marxism are spawned off Esoteric philosophies and religions. Fascism is just a racialized and/or nationalized reaction to Communism where the State fuses with industry. Communism is a subvariant of Marxism which itself is a byproduct of Gnosticism and Hermeticism synthesized into a secular religion where Man becomes God.

All Marxist variants are initiate societies. Initiates are taught by “Enlightened” Experts to see the world through a binary lens of Conflict Theory. To promote an underclass that rises up, destroys existing structures and seizes the Means of production to build out Heaven on Earth. During the transitional restructuring, the Vanguard Expert Class is tasked with “managing” and controlling the institutions on “behalf of the underclass.” Ironically, power is never ceded back.

Marxism obviously didn’t die with the Soviet Union like Fascism did with Nazi Germany. Since the early 1900s Marxism has mutated into various schools that looks Democratic and equalitarian while feeding off functioning systems until has enough power to subvert them toward its own ends.

Most people that promote the Neo-Marxist vision don’t know they’re doing it. They’ve never read Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Lukacs etc but if you trace the genealogy of ideas you’ll see they almost always lead right back to Marx, Hegel and Rousseau.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

Brilliant.
People always forget, thanks to communist indoctrination in the West, that fascism was a response to communism violence and destruction of societies.
That is why successful response to communist violence by Franco and Pinochet is so hated by the left.
Reality is you don’t reason with vermin, you call Rentokill.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Anybody praising Franco or Pinochet is no better than those left wingers who still look at Communism with fondness, both are utterly disgusting and lacking a moral compass

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Anybody praising Franco or Pinochet is no better than those left wingers who still look at Communism with fondness, both are utterly disgusting and lacking a moral compass

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

Brilliant.
People always forget, thanks to communist indoctrination in the West, that fascism was a response to communism violence and destruction of societies.
That is why successful response to communist violence by Franco and Pinochet is so hated by the left.
Reality is you don’t reason with vermin, you call Rentokill.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Let’s try to be accurate here, please.
Yes Nazism plan was to aliminate tens of millions of Slavs (after killing Jews) in the East.
But fascism as practicesed in Italy Spain, Portugal etc was much less violent and desruptive to societies than any form of Communism.
Let’s remember Pol Pot.
And my point still stands.
Fascism was a response to violence and murder of communism.
If you were upper and middle class and had seen murder in Russia (and now in Ukraine) what would you do if faced with choice between fascism and Communism?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Right, so fascism was fine, the fact it killed millions and planned to kill millions more is just an unfortunate byproduct? Not sure how gassing 6 million Jews helped fight communism mind you. If you’re having to justify mass murder and ethnic on an industrial scale by trying to point to another group that also wiped out millions you don’t really have a leg to stand on in my eyes

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Right, so fascism was fine, the fact it killed millions and planned to kill millions more is just an unfortunate byproduct? Not sure how gassing 6 million Jews helped fight communism mind you. If you’re having to justify mass murder and ethnic on an industrial scale by trying to point to another group that also wiped out millions you don’t really have a leg to stand on in my eyes

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Both Fascism and Marxism are spawned off Esoteric philosophies and religions. Fascism is just a racialized and/or nationalized reaction to Communism where the State fuses with industry. Communism is a subvariant of Marxism which itself is a byproduct of Gnosticism and Hermeticism synthesized into a secular religion where Man becomes God.

All Marxist variants are initiate societies. Initiates are taught by “Enlightened” Experts to see the world through a binary lens of Conflict Theory. To promote an underclass that rises up, destroys existing structures and seizes the Means of production to build out Heaven on Earth. During the transitional restructuring, the Vanguard Expert Class is tasked with “managing” and controlling the institutions on “behalf of the underclass.” Ironically, power is never ceded back.

Marxism obviously didn’t die with the Soviet Union like Fascism did with Nazi Germany. Since the early 1900s Marxism has mutated into various schools that looks Democratic and equalitarian while feeding off functioning systems until has enough power to subvert them toward its own ends.

Most people that promote the Neo-Marxist vision don’t know they’re doing it. They’ve never read Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Lukacs etc but if you trace the genealogy of ideas you’ll see they almost always lead right back to Marx, Hegel and Rousseau.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Let’s try to be accurate here, please.
Yes Nazism plan was to aliminate tens of millions of Slavs (after killing Jews) in the East.
But fascism as practicesed in Italy Spain, Portugal etc was much less violent and desruptive to societies than any form of Communism.
Let’s remember Pol Pot.
And my point still stands.
Fascism was a response to violence and murder of communism.
If you were upper and middle class and had seen murder in Russia (and now in Ukraine) what would you do if faced with choice between fascism and Communism?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

Blimey we are getting to ‘everything i dont like is marxist’ territory here.
I don’t think recognising the presence of peasants in history is marxist, do you?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

It’s simply the other end of the horseshoe to the woke crowd labelling anything they don’t like as fascist. They’re two sides of the same coin let’s be honest

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

It’s simply the other end of the horseshoe to the woke crowd labelling anything they don’t like as fascist. They’re two sides of the same coin let’s be honest

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

The comparison of Nazism and Marxism generally fails on the grounds that the latter is perceived to be founded at some level on good intentions, the betterment of human society and government, fundamental fairness, and treating all humans as equally as possible. Nazism, on the other hand, is perceived as an open and unapologetic defense of the opposite viewpoint, namely that the few, the strong, and the advantaged can and should rule over the vast majority of humanity, and that they should have broad license to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of those beneath them because, in this view, it is a small minority of exceptional people who always drive innovation, technology, science, economic activity, etc.. Philosophically, they are polar opposites, Marx vs. Nietzsche, the proletariat vs. the ubermensch, equity vs. superiority, the common good vs. the will to power, and so on. The obvious fact that both have resulted in terrible results where applied most thoroughly speaks, IMHO, to a common theme of extreme adherence to ideology in government leading to consistently bad results mostly regardless of the ideology in question. The disproportionate numbers of deaths attributable to Communism, the most extreme form of Marxism, is a result of the fact that Marxism has proven infinitely more popular than Nazism, as one would expect given it’s philosophically universal appeal, quite amenable to politicians seeking votes from the poor and the idle in free societies. The results have been that Communism has been repeatedly tried many times despite consistently poor returns, and even now continues in whole or in part in a few places, whereas Nazism by its very nature appeals to a small minority of more antisocial types, the same types who are attracted to Nietszchean philosophy generally. In practice, of course, they both end up as different flavors of authoritarian/totalitarian governments, but this is a thought experiment. I do however ultimately share your distaste for both. Choosing between the two is like choosing which color hat the guy robbing you is wearing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Well said.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Your description of fascism is really dishonest even at basic societal level, never mind philosophy.
It was about people of the given country coming together to build just society under strong but honest leader.
Whether reality matched idea is another matter.
Still, fascist societies like Italy and Spain definitely resulted in fewer deaths than any possible outcome under communism.
Your conflate Nazism and fascism, which are different things.
Nazism wanted to expand East to gain living space for German people after eliminating subhumans already there.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Your attempt to defend your preferred murderous ism is repugnant and morally bankrupt in the extreme. The honesty of Adolf? You seem to endorse the asserted sub-humanity of those millions of victims. And while you can play a game of whataboutism with communism, remember that the Red Death occurred over a far longer period of years. All violent dictatorships are wicked.
Why do we have to pick a favorite? Why are you defending someone whose impact on the world makes him clearly one of the worst humans (and yes, sick as he was, not simply a “monster”–that’s too easy), a man who led, to put it cautiously, one of the worst regimes of all time, just to argue that there were even worse ones, in your opinion?
Murderous, totalitarian regimes are plenty deserving of condemnation and general if imperfect association with other murderous totalitarian regimes and worldviews or “isms”. Even if the death tolls are uneven, even if you endorse one Death Machine as a net good.
I denounce your attempt to rehabilitate a mass-murdering demagogue, and would do so no matter which one was your favorite.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Your attempt to defend your preferred murderous ism is repugnant and morally bankrupt in the extreme. The honesty of Adolf? You seem to endorse the asserted sub-humanity of those millions of victims. And while you can play a game of whataboutism with communism, remember that the Red Death occurred over a far longer period of years. All violent dictatorships are wicked.
Why do we have to pick a favorite? Why are you defending someone whose impact on the world makes him clearly one of the worst humans (and yes, sick as he was, not simply a “monster”–that’s too easy), a man who led, to put it cautiously, one of the worst regimes of all time, just to argue that there were even worse ones, in your opinion?
Murderous, totalitarian regimes are plenty deserving of condemnation and general if imperfect association with other murderous totalitarian regimes and worldviews or “isms”. Even if the death tolls are uneven, even if you endorse one Death Machine as a net good.
I denounce your attempt to rehabilitate a mass-murdering demagogue, and would do so no matter which one was your favorite.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Well said.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Your description of fascism is really dishonest even at basic societal level, never mind philosophy.
It was about people of the given country coming together to build just society under strong but honest leader.
Whether reality matched idea is another matter.
Still, fascist societies like Italy and Spain definitely resulted in fewer deaths than any possible outcome under communism.
Your conflate Nazism and fascism, which are different things.
Nazism wanted to expand East to gain living space for German people after eliminating subhumans already there.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

I don’t totally disagree with your broad-brush assessment, but can we stop with these facile tallies and agree that both the bad post-1918 Russians and the infamous mid-20th Century German were terrible, no contest needed?
Are Nietzsche and Wagner on the hook for the SS or their leader? Is Christianity the direct and true source of every killing committed in the name of Jesus? Is God-by-a-thousand names on the hook for all the killing and inhumanities performed in his name(s)?
Even putting aside the unfairness–or at least reductiveness–of connecting an influential founder or source text to every misdeed that claims the same name, how is Deary any real version of a Marxist? Admittedly unaware of his work until reading another of Anil’s snark attacks, I’d genuinely like to know how his commoner’s rebelliousness or whatever reaches leftist revolutionary proportions.
Is advocating a British Republic tantamount to communism? I know the term has a different association in Britain, but to my North American ears the notion of a Marxist Republican is hilarious!

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

You saved me replaying to another of Lenins “useful idiots”.
His idea that ” he doesn’t care if information presented is accurate” is a joke.
Marxism doesn’t not believe in accurate of anything.
The only good Marxist is a dead one.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Whereas you would like to see the resurgence of full-scale Fascism. Correct?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Whereas you would like to see the resurgence of full-scale Fascism. Correct?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

What does that have to do with some children’s history books? I can’t say I ever saw them promote either Communism or Fascism to be honest, are you suggesting that the latter is a good ideology because it killed less people than the former?
Also we’ve no idea how many people Fascism would have killed if it hadn’t been soundly defeated relatively quickly by the Allies, whereas Communism dragged on in various guises for well over half a century. If they’d both lasted for similar timeframes the final score may have ended up much closer

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

Blimey we are getting to ‘everything i dont like is marxist’ territory here.
I don’t think recognising the presence of peasants in history is marxist, do you?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

The comparison of Nazism and Marxism generally fails on the grounds that the latter is perceived to be founded at some level on good intentions, the betterment of human society and government, fundamental fairness, and treating all humans as equally as possible. Nazism, on the other hand, is perceived as an open and unapologetic defense of the opposite viewpoint, namely that the few, the strong, and the advantaged can and should rule over the vast majority of humanity, and that they should have broad license to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of those beneath them because, in this view, it is a small minority of exceptional people who always drive innovation, technology, science, economic activity, etc.. Philosophically, they are polar opposites, Marx vs. Nietzsche, the proletariat vs. the ubermensch, equity vs. superiority, the common good vs. the will to power, and so on. The obvious fact that both have resulted in terrible results where applied most thoroughly speaks, IMHO, to a common theme of extreme adherence to ideology in government leading to consistently bad results mostly regardless of the ideology in question. The disproportionate numbers of deaths attributable to Communism, the most extreme form of Marxism, is a result of the fact that Marxism has proven infinitely more popular than Nazism, as one would expect given it’s philosophically universal appeal, quite amenable to politicians seeking votes from the poor and the idle in free societies. The results have been that Communism has been repeatedly tried many times despite consistently poor returns, and even now continues in whole or in part in a few places, whereas Nazism by its very nature appeals to a small minority of more antisocial types, the same types who are attracted to Nietszchean philosophy generally. In practice, of course, they both end up as different flavors of authoritarian/totalitarian governments, but this is a thought experiment. I do however ultimately share your distaste for both. Choosing between the two is like choosing which color hat the guy robbing you is wearing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

I don’t totally disagree with your broad-brush assessment, but can we stop with these facile tallies and agree that both the bad post-1918 Russians and the infamous mid-20th Century German were terrible, no contest needed?
Are Nietzsche and Wagner on the hook for the SS or their leader? Is Christianity the direct and true source of every killing committed in the name of Jesus? Is God-by-a-thousand names on the hook for all the killing and inhumanities performed in his name(s)?
Even putting aside the unfairness–or at least reductiveness–of connecting an influential founder or source text to every misdeed that claims the same name, how is Deary any real version of a Marxist? Admittedly unaware of his work until reading another of Anil’s snark attacks, I’d genuinely like to know how his commoner’s rebelliousness or whatever reaches leftist revolutionary proportions.
Is advocating a British Republic tantamount to communism? I know the term has a different association in Britain, but to my North American ears the notion of a Marxist Republican is hilarious!

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

You saved me replaying to another of Lenins “useful idiots”.
His idea that ” he doesn’t care if information presented is accurate” is a joke.
Marxism doesn’t not believe in accurate of anything.
The only good Marxist is a dead one.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Wise words – i think the nauseatingly simple historicism of “white men with swords” taught at O and A level was a big factor in me being a lefty until early 20s when i started recovery – and still clean over 40 years later!

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
Tim Smith
Tim Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

As a thought experiment, substitute marxism for nazism. Then see if you still feel the same way.
The remember that the number of deaths due to marxism is largely unknown but almost certainly amounts into the hundreds of millions between Russian (maybe about 60 million) and China (largely unknown but somewhere between 40 million and 80 million) alone – this ignores countries like Cambodia.
The total deaths under Nazism btw is estimated at about 17m.
It is harder to think of a more ruthless and violent philosophy than marxism.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Wise words – i think the nauseatingly simple historicism of “white men with swords” taught at O and A level was a big factor in me being a lefty until early 20s when i started recovery – and still clean over 40 years later!

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think my kids liked it because it was funny. Interesting that he may have tried to turn them into Marxists, but it didn’t work.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Walsh

Precisely. Reading about some pompous authority figure getting done over by the little man always brings a smile to my face, though I’m not sure it makes me Marxist

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Is Eddie Haskell of vintage TV’s Leave it to Beaver now a Marxist, through some trick of revisionist pop-culture history?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Is Eddie Haskell of vintage TV’s Leave it to Beaver now a Marxist, through some trick of revisionist pop-culture history?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Walsh

Precisely. Reading about some pompous authority figure getting done over by the little man always brings a smile to my face, though I’m not sure it makes me Marxist

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, but let’s have alternative history quiz here:
So, if Africa and India and most of Asia were not colonised by Europeans would they be any better now?
Without European science, technology and medicine they would be 90% fewer of them for a start.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

How is that related to anything I’ve said? Why reply to my comment if you’re not going to link it in any way to the original post?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Because he has an ulterior, far-far (far, far,…) right wing agenda. Think all the way to Nuremberg. Read what he says about the Austrian demagogue and his movement.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Because he has an ulterior, far-far (far, far,…) right wing agenda. Think all the way to Nuremberg. Read what he says about the Austrian demagogue and his movement.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

How is that related to anything I’ve said? Why reply to my comment if you’re not going to link it in any way to the original post?

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

As an American kid who loved history but found most history in school to be insultingly oversimplified, Horrible Histories were wonderful reads. What kid with a mischievous intellectual streak would not love learning all the nasty, gruesome, and hilariously ironic bits that are sanitized out? Also as someone who is not a fan of Marxist theory, who cares as long as the information presented is accurate? Just because I hate some falsified lefty revisionism projects like the 1619 Project does not mean I want more propaganda, just of a different flavor. Here is an idea and I know this might sound crazy, but just encourage kids to read a lot from a variety of sources and viewpoints.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think my kids liked it because it was funny. Interesting that he may have tried to turn them into Marxists, but it didn’t work.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, but let’s have alternative history quiz here:
So, if Africa and India and most of Asia were not colonised by Europeans would they be any better now?
Without European science, technology and medicine they would be 90% fewer of them for a start.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Seems a rather long bow to draw. Yes his books have always rooted for the underdog and celebrated the pompous and powerful getting their comeuppance (a rather British trait as witnessed by the early rounds of the FA Cup every season) which is part of their appeal, but to imply they’re some kind of subversive Marxist plot to indoctrinate children is pushing it in my opinion.
Besides, what he has said isn’t wrong. Charlie did get the chop because he tried to bypass parliament, and empires were forged primarily to enrich the main country, and they did a mixture of good and terrible deeds in the colonies.

Jack Reeves
Jack Reeves
1 year ago

Great Article but “imperial adventurism in the Malvinas” is a pretty shocking way to describe the Falklands War.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Reeves

I took this to be ironic; how uneducated “radicals” would have described it at the time.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Reeves

I took this to be ironic; how uneducated “radicals” would have described it at the time.

Jack Reeves
Jack Reeves
1 year ago

Great Article but “imperial adventurism in the Malvinas” is a pretty shocking way to describe the Falklands War.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago

So we shouldn’t expect ‘Murderous Maoists’ just yet, then.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Unless you can find a comical slant on it then I’d wager not. The whole point of the books is that they’re funny to read, I think you’d do well to squeeze in too many jokes about the Great Leap Forward

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Have could you say so?
They are lovely people, the lefty scum.
You can not make an omlet without breaking eggs.
The sooner we start applying this principle to far lefties in the West, the better.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

They could probably spell omelette though

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

They could probably spell omelette though

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Unless you can find a comical slant on it then I’d wager not. The whole point of the books is that they’re funny to read, I think you’d do well to squeeze in too many jokes about the Great Leap Forward

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Have could you say so?
They are lovely people, the lefty scum.
You can not make an omlet without breaking eggs.
The sooner we start applying this principle to far lefties in the West, the better.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago

So we shouldn’t expect ‘Murderous Maoists’ just yet, then.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago

It’d be merely funny, except that Marxism is 100 times worse than the Imperialist hierarchy he decries. There are individual years when Marxist regimes killed more people than the British Empire did in its entire history.
There’s not a Marxist in the world who’d actually choose to live as an ordinary peasant under Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot rather than under the British Empire.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

True. I don’t see Deary as a Marxist in any way all he is doing is filling in the gaps that we are not taught at school. That is fine as long as everything he says is, in fact, accurate in itself. At school we are mainly taught about the famous and powerful, Deary is just putting it all in a different perspective.

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Its not as if they’d have had much choice. In history, you are where you are for better or, often, worse.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

This tallying system has just become too absurd. While I’m not a fan of Marxism at all and actually agree with your comparison as stated, the more fair tally would be all monarchical or republican/parliamentary empires vs. all Marxist or socialist regimes. Big as Britain was, they aren’t the whole of historical empire. How many dead would Empire acquire from the Romans?
How many dead can be shoved, though quite unfairly, under the umbrella of Theism? It just becomes quite a doubtful or unhelpful correlation, with little to no causation established.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

But you see, as Marxist would tell you, while having another swig of vodka and extra ration of food, these people did not develop proper understanding of class struggle.
But short trip to a gulag would remedy it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Is every comment you post simply hyperbolic nonsense?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, but yours are.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A nice rhetorical stab. It answers itself.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, but yours are.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A nice rhetorical stab. It answers itself.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Is every comment you post simply hyperbolic nonsense?

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

True. I don’t see Deary as a Marxist in any way all he is doing is filling in the gaps that we are not taught at school. That is fine as long as everything he says is, in fact, accurate in itself. At school we are mainly taught about the famous and powerful, Deary is just putting it all in a different perspective.

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Its not as if they’d have had much choice. In history, you are where you are for better or, often, worse.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

This tallying system has just become too absurd. While I’m not a fan of Marxism at all and actually agree with your comparison as stated, the more fair tally would be all monarchical or republican/parliamentary empires vs. all Marxist or socialist regimes. Big as Britain was, they aren’t the whole of historical empire. How many dead would Empire acquire from the Romans?
How many dead can be shoved, though quite unfairly, under the umbrella of Theism? It just becomes quite a doubtful or unhelpful correlation, with little to no causation established.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

But you see, as Marxist would tell you, while having another swig of vodka and extra ration of food, these people did not develop proper understanding of class struggle.
But short trip to a gulag would remedy it.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago

It’d be merely funny, except that Marxism is 100 times worse than the Imperialist hierarchy he decries. There are individual years when Marxist regimes killed more people than the British Empire did in its entire history.
There’s not a Marxist in the world who’d actually choose to live as an ordinary peasant under Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot rather than under the British Empire.

P N
P N
1 year ago

Deary is from Sunderland? Hardly a surprise. What would you expect from a Mackem other than to have a massive chip on his shoulder?
As for Mr Anil, is he being deliberately obtuse or provocative with his, “imperial adventurism in the Malvinas”? The Malvinas? Seriously? In a British media organisation? What an insult to those men who gave their lives fighting for the freedom of the Falkland Islanders. The imperial adventurism was on the part of the fascist Junta invading a group of islands whose inhabitants wanted nothing to do with them. Isn’t that the very definition of imperial adventurism? What is it you like so much about the Junta Pratinav? I see you are in good company with the Chinese Communist Party sharing your attitudes.
If this is typical of Mr Anil’s grasp of historical facts then it is a serious concern that he spends his days indoctrinating our youth at Oxford. Whilst Mr Deary may not fit the stereotype of a commercial historian, it is sad the Mr Anil fits the stereotype of a left wing academic.
Hobsbawm and Gramsci were not the good guys btw.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  P N

Yes, Hobsbawn and Gramsci are vermin.
Still Hobsbawn got CH from her Majesty.
When higher orders loose their marbles, revolution might come.
Just look at current lot supporting green nonsense, mass immigration, rainbow flag idiocy?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  P N

Yes, Hobsbawn and Gramsci are vermin.
Still Hobsbawn got CH from her Majesty.
When higher orders loose their marbles, revolution might come.
Just look at current lot supporting green nonsense, mass immigration, rainbow flag idiocy?

P N
P N
1 year ago

Deary is from Sunderland? Hardly a surprise. What would you expect from a Mackem other than to have a massive chip on his shoulder?
As for Mr Anil, is he being deliberately obtuse or provocative with his, “imperial adventurism in the Malvinas”? The Malvinas? Seriously? In a British media organisation? What an insult to those men who gave their lives fighting for the freedom of the Falkland Islanders. The imperial adventurism was on the part of the fascist Junta invading a group of islands whose inhabitants wanted nothing to do with them. Isn’t that the very definition of imperial adventurism? What is it you like so much about the Junta Pratinav? I see you are in good company with the Chinese Communist Party sharing your attitudes.
If this is typical of Mr Anil’s grasp of historical facts then it is a serious concern that he spends his days indoctrinating our youth at Oxford. Whilst Mr Deary may not fit the stereotype of a commercial historian, it is sad the Mr Anil fits the stereotype of a left wing academic.
Hobsbawm and Gramsci were not the good guys btw.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

‘Who knows, perhaps someday the English Civil Wars will more widely be known as the English Revolution.”
Led by Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol, an entire generation of Marxist academics attempted to establish that the English Civil War was the Bourgeois English Revolution which would inevitably be superseded by the Proletarian Revolution.
In fact the real English Revolution was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, consolidated by the military victory at the Boyne in 1690. It created a sort of aristocratic republic, an effective oligarchy, and a two party system of Government and Loyal Opposition which is still the framework for political activity in England today.
The Bourgeois Revolution (if we can call it that) was the Reform Act of 1832 which enfranchised a portion of the middle classes without admitting them to the corridors of power
which remained a firmly aristocratic preserve until 1867 at the earliest.
Macaulay’s ‘History of England’ is actually a history of the Glorious Revolution. Bagehot’s ‘The English Constitution’ (NB the adjective) of 1867 is an explanation of what lay behind the facade of constitutional monarchy.
A useful survey of the period is J H Plumb: ‘The Development of Political Stability in England 1675 to 1725’.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

By the “Glorious Revolution” you mean the successful invasion of Great Britain by the Dutch?

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

No, I mean the successful invitation by a cabal to the Prince of Orange to accept the throne of England, which enabled a Constitution to be hammered out over a period of about 35 years which, in its essentials, survives to this day. For the details I would still recommend ‘England under Queen Anne’ by G M Trevelyan and of course Lewis Namier: ‘The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III’.
But you don’t need the details.
You cannot have failed to notice that Charles III could not have been crowned without the permission (under remarkably stringent conditions) of Parliament.
Now that was the Revolution.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

No, I mean the successful invitation by a cabal to the Prince of Orange to accept the throne of England, which enabled a Constitution to be hammered out over a period of about 35 years which, in its essentials, survives to this day. For the details I would still recommend ‘England under Queen Anne’ by G M Trevelyan and of course Lewis Namier: ‘The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III’.
But you don’t need the details.
You cannot have failed to notice that Charles III could not have been crowned without the permission (under remarkably stringent conditions) of Parliament.
Now that was the Revolution.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

If James hadn’t had a nosebleed things might have been different, and that ‘cabal’ would have suffered vivisection at Tyburn.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

And deservedly so, since they were indisputably traitors to their anointed king.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Question is:
Was it a good outcome for Britain?
From what I read, it was.
Many other countries did not have luck, or wisdom, to achieve peaceful resolution of their internal problems.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

And deservedly so, since they were indisputably traitors to their anointed king.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Question is:
Was it a good outcome for Britain?
From what I read, it was.
Many other countries did not have luck, or wisdom, to achieve peaceful resolution of their internal problems.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Best short history of, late, Britain, I have ever read.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

By the “Glorious Revolution” you mean the successful invasion of Great Britain by the Dutch?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

If James hadn’t had a nosebleed things might have been different, and that ‘cabal’ would have suffered vivisection at Tyburn.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Best short history of, late, Britain, I have ever read.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

‘Who knows, perhaps someday the English Civil Wars will more widely be known as the English Revolution.”
Led by Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol, an entire generation of Marxist academics attempted to establish that the English Civil War was the Bourgeois English Revolution which would inevitably be superseded by the Proletarian Revolution.
In fact the real English Revolution was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, consolidated by the military victory at the Boyne in 1690. It created a sort of aristocratic republic, an effective oligarchy, and a two party system of Government and Loyal Opposition which is still the framework for political activity in England today.
The Bourgeois Revolution (if we can call it that) was the Reform Act of 1832 which enfranchised a portion of the middle classes without admitting them to the corridors of power
which remained a firmly aristocratic preserve until 1867 at the earliest.
Macaulay’s ‘History of England’ is actually a history of the Glorious Revolution. Bagehot’s ‘The English Constitution’ (NB the adjective) of 1867 is an explanation of what lay behind the facade of constitutional monarchy.
A useful survey of the period is J H Plumb: ‘The Development of Political Stability in England 1675 to 1725’.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Kids (young and “adult”) didn’t buy his historicist drivel because they believe in dialectic materialism. They bought it because like dreary deary they hate knowledge and learning, and like to take the piss out of those cleverer or more diligent than them. They can at least manage his dross whilst being unable to read philosophy, physics, maths, engineering etc. I expect most of his stuff sits on shelves gathering dust. Meanwhile if his bolshevist violence were ever to break out you can be sure dreary would flee with his millions rather than face the iron will of the proletariat lol.

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Severe but just.

Rachel Bailie
Rachel Bailie
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Meh. I grew up in the 2000s and myself and my siblings devoured the book and later tv programme. They were aimed at children aged 8-12 and whilst brought out the gory side of history to keep interest, they would learn from the books. The books were a very good introduction to periods like the Greeks or Romans or Tudors. It sparked interest to then seek out less humour filled depictions. His emphasis was on the ordinary people’s experience in history not necessarily monarchs though they were covered.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

That’s a slight overreaction I must say. Are you suggesting the information in the books is wrong or historically inaccurate?
Or have you never read them (or heard of him until just now) and have attacked him because somebody described him as Marxist, a term I don’t ever recall him using to describe himself?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Outstanding.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Are you saying it would be like Toynbee escaping to her villa in Fascist Italy to escape proletariat?
You are so unfair, sir.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Severe but just.

Rachel Bailie
Rachel Bailie
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Meh. I grew up in the 2000s and myself and my siblings devoured the book and later tv programme. They were aimed at children aged 8-12 and whilst brought out the gory side of history to keep interest, they would learn from the books. The books were a very good introduction to periods like the Greeks or Romans or Tudors. It sparked interest to then seek out less humour filled depictions. His emphasis was on the ordinary people’s experience in history not necessarily monarchs though they were covered.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

That’s a slight overreaction I must say. Are you suggesting the information in the books is wrong or historically inaccurate?
Or have you never read them (or heard of him until just now) and have attacked him because somebody described him as Marxist, a term I don’t ever recall him using to describe himself?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Outstanding.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Are you saying it would be like Toynbee escaping to her villa in Fascist Italy to escape proletariat?
You are so unfair, sir.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Kids (young and “adult”) didn’t buy his historicist drivel because they believe in dialectic materialism. They bought it because like dreary deary they hate knowledge and learning, and like to take the piss out of those cleverer or more diligent than them. They can at least manage his dross whilst being unable to read philosophy, physics, maths, engineering etc. I expect most of his stuff sits on shelves gathering dust. Meanwhile if his bolshevist violence were ever to break out you can be sure dreary would flee with his millions rather than face the iron will of the proletariat lol.

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago

Very nice article, although I think it is a bit of a stretch to describe his writings as “Marxist”. He has always struck me as being one of those people who was taught by someone who was taught by a Marxist academic, but has got no closer than that to what Marx actually wrote. The schools and universities are full of such people; they have maybe read a few pages of the Communist Manifesto and enjoyed a couple of the Theses on Feuerbach, and read an academic synopsis or two, but have never really engaged with the theory. “Poor folk good, rich folk bad and also nastily snobby”. Nothing more sophisticated than a low-grade class-based oikophobia.
One thing which has puzzled me is the CBBC Horrible Histories TV series. The actors are obviously having great fun, but it’s equally obvious that if the series is intended for children, then they would not understand most of the cultural references. Maybe it’s a bit like pantomime, where the parents get the saucy double entendre which goes over the kids’ heads. But children today have, in the main, an astonishingly narrow window onto our culture. They would enjoy the rap sequences and the idea of 40-somethings attempting to be down wiv the kids, but references to disco, jitterbugging, West End musicals, Elvis and Shakespeare would be alien to them unless they are explained.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Neale
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

He sounds more like one if the old school working class leftists that used to make up the Labour Party (before it morphed into the current middle class metropolitan model we see today) rather than a Marxist ideologue to me really. There’s nothing wrong with having a disdain for authority or the establishment in my eyes

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, like Oxford economics don Harold Wilson, who claimed not to have read beyond the first page of Das Kapital. It was best not to flaunt intellectualism. And I agree about the disdain for authority, and only wish that they had exercised the same disdain for authority when wielded by the left.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, like Oxford economics don Harold Wilson, who claimed not to have read beyond the first page of Das Kapital. It was best not to flaunt intellectualism. And I agree about the disdain for authority, and only wish that they had exercised the same disdain for authority when wielded by the left.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

He sounds more like one if the old school working class leftists that used to make up the Labour Party (before it morphed into the current middle class metropolitan model we see today) rather than a Marxist ideologue to me really. There’s nothing wrong with having a disdain for authority or the establishment in my eyes

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago

Very nice article, although I think it is a bit of a stretch to describe his writings as “Marxist”. He has always struck me as being one of those people who was taught by someone who was taught by a Marxist academic, but has got no closer than that to what Marx actually wrote. The schools and universities are full of such people; they have maybe read a few pages of the Communist Manifesto and enjoyed a couple of the Theses on Feuerbach, and read an academic synopsis or two, but have never really engaged with the theory. “Poor folk good, rich folk bad and also nastily snobby”. Nothing more sophisticated than a low-grade class-based oikophobia.
One thing which has puzzled me is the CBBC Horrible Histories TV series. The actors are obviously having great fun, but it’s equally obvious that if the series is intended for children, then they would not understand most of the cultural references. Maybe it’s a bit like pantomime, where the parents get the saucy double entendre which goes over the kids’ heads. But children today have, in the main, an astonishingly narrow window onto our culture. They would enjoy the rap sequences and the idea of 40-somethings attempting to be down wiv the kids, but references to disco, jitterbugging, West End musicals, Elvis and Shakespeare would be alien to them unless they are explained.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Neale
David Harris
David Harris
1 year ago

“the Left has never enjoyed cultural hegemony in this sceptred isle”
Seriously? What an astonishing claim.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  David Harris

He means before ww2, or maybe ww1.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  David Harris

He means before ww2, or maybe ww1.

David Harris
David Harris
1 year ago

“the Left has never enjoyed cultural hegemony in this sceptred isle”
Seriously? What an astonishing claim.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Deary is not an historian in any meaningful sense anymore than BJ is a “classicist”. Jared Diamond is as near as anyone gets to a real historian now the academics have succumbed to the very historicism they rejected in the last half of the 20th century. Selling copy by playing on ppls envy and hate is easy – just look at trhe music press!

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Deary is not an historian in any meaningful sense anymore than BJ is a “classicist”. Jared Diamond is as near as anyone gets to a real historian now the academics have succumbed to the very historicism they rejected in the last half of the 20th century. Selling copy by playing on ppls envy and hate is easy – just look at trhe music press!

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
1 year ago

i am a lifelong history tragic and I’ve degrees in history and politics. Now I’ve heard about horrible histories, I’ll have to look further. All history is, in a manner of speaking, storytelling, its validity and verification changing with the perspectives, perspicacity and prejudices of the storyteller. If HHs can bring young folk to history and encourage them to learn more, so much the better. From what I read here, the histories are a more detailed and graphic version of that old, corny chestnut 1066 and all that. I share the view of one commentator- that Deary is probably no Marxist, but was taught by a history teacher with Marxist leanings. History can and should be fun as well as serious, and not just the bailiwick of crusty academics and history snobs and culture warriors. There’s a Canadian writer who tells similar stories about world history called Sweaty History or The Day Shit Went Down – I’m sure you get the drift. By the way, I highly recommend Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland’s excellent podcast The Rest is History. Solid stories with bad accents and loads of humorous irreverence regarding assorted shibboleths and sacred cows.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Hemphill
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Hemphill

I like both historians and I listened to few of their podcasts, but their take on matters I know well is very basic (I mean primary school not O level).
I guess it is idea of their podcasts, but other people take audience as adults.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Hemphill

I like both historians and I listened to few of their podcasts, but their take on matters I know well is very basic (I mean primary school not O level).
I guess it is idea of their podcasts, but other people take audience as adults.

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
1 year ago

i am a lifelong history tragic and I’ve degrees in history and politics. Now I’ve heard about horrible histories, I’ll have to look further. All history is, in a manner of speaking, storytelling, its validity and verification changing with the perspectives, perspicacity and prejudices of the storyteller. If HHs can bring young folk to history and encourage them to learn more, so much the better. From what I read here, the histories are a more detailed and graphic version of that old, corny chestnut 1066 and all that. I share the view of one commentator- that Deary is probably no Marxist, but was taught by a history teacher with Marxist leanings. History can and should be fun as well as serious, and not just the bailiwick of crusty academics and history snobs and culture warriors. There’s a Canadian writer who tells similar stories about world history called Sweaty History or The Day Shit Went Down – I’m sure you get the drift. By the way, I highly recommend Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland’s excellent podcast The Rest is History. Solid stories with bad accents and loads of humorous irreverence regarding assorted shibboleths and sacred cows.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Hemphill
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

Having known him for something like 40 years, I cannot help wondering what he would make of, “Indeed, he belongs in the company of Christopher Hitchens and Anthony Giddens.”

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Indeed, they would have little to say to one another if they met. One has good academic ideas but lacklustre expression; another has rhetoric but lacks the academic underpinnings; and Deary shows no sign of either.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Skevering 3 people in one paragraph is outstanding.
I wonder why are you on here though?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Skevering 3 people in one paragraph is outstanding.
I wonder why are you on here though?

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Indeed, they would have little to say to one another if they met. One has good academic ideas but lacklustre expression; another has rhetoric but lacks the academic underpinnings; and Deary shows no sign of either.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

Having known him for something like 40 years, I cannot help wondering what he would make of, “Indeed, he belongs in the company of Christopher Hitchens and Anthony Giddens.”

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

I am unfamiliar with Deary; he sounds like Britain’s version of Howard Zinn.

John L Murphy
John L Murphy
1 year ago

If with at least a bit of puerile sneer or snarky tone doubtlessly lacking in, say, An Intelligent Child’s Guide to A People’s History of the United States? Or certainly whatever’s assigned students who glance little at their diverse and inclusive lessons. I’d rather have a readership engaged or enraged than a disengaged lot. Having taught the liberal arts to undergraduate techies and business majors for four decades, I’ve watched the decline of interest in the humanities…the relentless nitpicking over content and distortion of evidence. And as a working-class kid myself, at a lower tier, open admissions institution, the devolution of a grounded and rounded education into preparation for corporate cant and capitalist fealty. I’ve no time for romanticising noble labour anymore than bean counters aspiring to C-suite. We’re all flawed, and all cogs in this sorry system. One where I’m out of favour after speaking up for my ilk in ‘at-will’ employment. Far fewer academics reach the tenured tiers, as today’s exploited teaching cadre.

Last edited 1 year ago by John L Murphy
John L Murphy
John L Murphy
1 year ago

If with at least a bit of puerile sneer or snarky tone doubtlessly lacking in, say, An Intelligent Child’s Guide to A People’s History of the United States? Or certainly whatever’s assigned students who glance little at their diverse and inclusive lessons. I’d rather have a readership engaged or enraged than a disengaged lot. Having taught the liberal arts to undergraduate techies and business majors for four decades, I’ve watched the decline of interest in the humanities…the relentless nitpicking over content and distortion of evidence. And as a working-class kid myself, at a lower tier, open admissions institution, the devolution of a grounded and rounded education into preparation for corporate cant and capitalist fealty. I’ve no time for romanticising noble labour anymore than bean counters aspiring to C-suite. We’re all flawed, and all cogs in this sorry system. One where I’m out of favour after speaking up for my ilk in ‘at-will’ employment. Far fewer academics reach the tenured tiers, as today’s exploited teaching cadre.

Last edited 1 year ago by John L Murphy