Friday, June 17, 2005

Re-writing history: a critique of a Vision of Britain

A cause of great concern to SQA is the tendency for Newspeak and brainwashing to permeate the heritage professions. Why? We are university graduates supposedly capable of critical analysis and independent thinking. At least SQA is proof of those traditional credentials!

Of all the heritage professions surely archivists with their disinterested custodianship of the nation's written heritage at heart should be the least deceived or manipulated. This is to put aside the greater competition in obtaining places on the archives training courses in comparison with librarianship courses and therefore in theory at least the greater intellectual capacity of archivists.

But no. Archivists along with museum curators and librarians have joined the headlong rush to re-write British history and misrepresent it as part of the drive to make us European. A large part of this cultural deception is to replace the counties with Euro Regions.

At the heart of this deception lies the Local Government Act of 1972 and the abolition of the traditonal counties of Great Britain which followed in 1974. At the time the changes were justified on grounds of efficiency but recent research in the National Archives has revealed that the reorganisation was actually motivated by the need to prepare for regional government. In the same year the UK enacted the European Communities Act and laid the foundations for the dismantlement of the British nation state.

Britain as she really is.

The latest development to have come to our attention is A Vision of Britain Through Time subtitled a vision of Britain between 1801 and 2001 including maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, Scottish Archives Network's Gazetteer and the National Register of Archives' Manorial Documents Register (now operated by the National Archives).

The concept, set-up page and query tool of this site are structured according to and dictated by maps of the Euro Regions.

Within each Euro Region the structure shown and subject to searching is district and unitary authorities. For example, this is how the South East Euro Region appears:

Where have the counties gone?

Counties make no appearance in the tool and are only mentioned as an antiquarian digression in free text content on certain pages.

Historical researchers and genealogists will hardly recognise these new boundaries and structures or warm to them even if the data available are useful. What worries us is firstly that researchers are being manipulated into conducting their research in an anachronistic context and secondly that the Europhiles clearly intend this to become second nature for people active in researching our cultural heritage.

This is banal when we consider how supposedly user-friendly we are all supposed to be nowadays.

However, we are glad to report that reactionary forces are at work.

Foremost among these is the Association of British Counties who publish a mouth-wateringly historically relevant map of the traditional British counties (see above). Furthermore, when the Post Office introduced Postcode Defined Circulation, the county component of postal addressing ceased to have operational importance to the Royal Mail. This led to the Royal Mail introducing its Flexible Addressing policy in the mid-1990s. Under this policy, we can now use the traditional county name in any UK postal address, rather than no county name at all or a bogus county name like Avon as recommended after 1974.

If we add to this the massive pressure of genealogical usage of archives especially in local government archives and the relevance to genealogists of the counties and dioceses pre-1837 as represented by the Phillimore Atlas, the traditional county is not only of cultural or sentimental value it is also an essential component of public service awareness training.

This is not even to take into account the continued survival of county record offices whose counties have legally disappeared under the Local Government Act 1992 like Berkshire. The evidence of Berkshire seems in itself to justify the continued use of traditional counties as our point of reference, at least in local government. If only national archives bodies thought the same way as the six Berkshire unitary authorities.

However, even Berkshire Record Office is confused. The Berkshire Record Office web site states in 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished, and the Record Office began a new life as a joint service of the 6 unitary authorities in Berkshire. In 1998, more than Berkshire County Council was abolished. The unitary authorities mentioned are also known as county boroughs and by their creation the former county was also abolished, the 1992 legislation as in 1972 making no provision for recognising counties as anything other than legal administrative entities. Only by their co-operation does the county record office survive or the county name have any meaning.

Berkshire Record Office

For more on heritage and EU colloboration see our previous blogs NUTS 2 us all, The Balkanisation of Britain and More on archives and the UK Euro-regions.

Further reading:

here and here

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