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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Starting to Love History

It only took 60+ years for me to start to like history.  Since a middle grade teacher threw my history test in the "circular file," accusing me of cheating (which was not true), I began a nearly lifelong disinterest in the subject.  But, that is finally at an end!  I am happy now to discover there is a whole new fascinating world out there to immerse myself in.   I'm currently loving Hilary Mantel's latest book "Bring Up The Bodies," about Henry VIII and the English Tudors.  I am not alone.  The Telegraph gives the book a great review here.  Given my prior lack of interest in history, I was confused how England got from Henry VIII to the current Queen, Elizabeth, and found this official website of British Royalty a great help.

What's of most interest to me in this book, outside of the great writing, is how clearly history tends to repeat itself.  Here is Hilary's description of why Parliament, in the early 16th century, won't vote for laws that help the poor (page 204-205):  "In March, Parliament knocks back his (Cromwell's) new poor law.  It was too much for the Commons to digest, that rich men might have some duty to the poor, that if you get fat, as gentlemen of England do, on the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off the land, the labourers without labour, the sowers without a field.  England needs roads, forts, harbours, bridges.  Men need work.  It's a shame to see them begging their bread, when honest labour could keep the realm secure.  Can we not put them together, the hands and the task?  But Parliament cannot see how it is the state's job to create work.  Are not these matters in God's hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order?  To everything there is a season:  a time to starve and a time to thieve.  If rain falls for six months solid and rots the rain in the fields, there must be providence in it; for God knows his trade.   It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising, to suggest that they should pay an income tax, only to put bread in the mouths of the workshy.  And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality:  well, are there not hangmen enough?"  Excellent stuff!!  I highly recommend the book.

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