Jacob Rees-Mogg is a very rich Conservative Brexiteer politician (who has parked his fortune in an offshore tax haven to demonstrate his patriotism. (Irony intended). He has quaint ideas about “making Britain great again”. The following is a review of his book on British 19th Century history. The views of the reviewer seem to be shared by everyone who knows any history:
“The accolades distributed to Rees-Mogg’s subjects are framed in clichés that no half-way intelligent or discerning writer would dream of handing out. Prime ministers are “great statesmen” and therefore to be treated with due deference. Albert and Victoria and their children, including the repulsive Bertie (later Edward VII), were a “happy family”. General Gordon (a mercenary soldier) was “a paragon of Victorian manhood”. General Napier was “heroic” and “daring” and won a “famous victory” at the Battle of Miani. Pugin is “remembered today with respect and admiration” because “he emphasised the notion of truthful and honest living, with buildings to match”.
Patriotic, enthusiastic and celebratory, it recalls nothing so much as Henrietta Marshall’s 1905 children’s history of Britain, Our Island Story (though Marshall was a much better writer than Rees-Mogg). This is the kind of history that Michael Gove, as education secretary, wanted to be promoted in the national history curriculum for schools, until he was forced to withdraw his proposals after a deluge of criticism and ridicule from the Press and those who know any facts. Rees- Mogg’s celebration of the Victorian age is plodding, laborious, humourless and barely readable. (adapted from an article by Richard J. Evans, New Statesman, 22 May 2019)
I have mentioned this man Mogg before. The book is unimportant, very unimportant, but I do so because you can’t devise a successful future for a country if you know nothing about its history. It’s like trying to work out on a map where you are going when you don’t know where you’ve come from or where you are. Whatever happened to knowledgeable, canny politicians?