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Old 08-17-2017, 10:08 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is online now
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Why is there a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster?

Since controversial statues are in the news, I find it amazing that there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell right outside the Houses of Parliament. Cromwell was a despicable traitor and surely shouldn't be honored with a statue outside of a great democracy. He's guilty of regicide and also dissolved parliament.

There's a statue of Margaret Thatcher inside the Palace of Westminster. Disagree with her politics is fine, but at least she was a legitimately elected Prime Minister and played within the rules of the House of Commons. Scum like Cromwell made up his own rules as they suited him.

I put this in GD because it's such a politically loaded question that it wouldn't fit in GQ. I tried to keep my OP as more of a GD rather than a pit rant against the long dead Cromwell.
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Old 08-17-2017, 10:54 PM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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His supporters view him as an important figure in the fight against absolute monarchy. The statue was controversial when it was erected and there are still calls for it to be removed, but the controversy is mostly about his his actions in Ireland. There are definitely people who think he was a pretty terrible ruler, but I'm not sure that's a very big issue today, whereas the past and present nature of Britain's involvement in Ireland is still a very live topic.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 08-17-2017 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 08-17-2017, 11:39 PM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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You are surprized that Parliament has a statue of a man whose victory in war helped establish the concept of Supremacy of Parliament?
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Old 08-18-2017, 12:04 AM
Evan Drake Evan Drake is offline
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As an absolute monarchist I believe him to be a terrible, vile little shit who irreparably damaged the fabric of Britain and was a filthy traitor not only to his King but to the parliament cause that hired him to that rebellion; like Napoleon his only aim was self; like his devoted disciple Hitler, who consciously modelled himself on Oliver, he instituted a dreary rule of the sword.

However, the only thing that can be said for his career, as with those others, is that it is a cruel necessity to have evil to contend with --- even if evil wins.


But aside from that there are several reasons why I and other royalists wouldn't dream of removing that statue. It is Art ( Thornycroft if I remember correctly ); it's existence is unimportant; hysterically removing the past to achieve a continuous revolutionary Year Zero ( a la the the wishes of much of the English parliament-men in Cromwell's time and the French Jacobins in Nap's time ) erases everything in the world eventually, since there is nothing existing in all worlds to which some poor gink won't take offence; the self-righteous saddos who erected this monument to oafish tyranny, such as Lord Rosebery, distinguished idolater of Napoleon, will not be injured by the statue disappearing, and their foul ideas ( such as parliamentary supremacy and republicanism --- quite opposite to the ideals of Cromwell ) will still poison life regardless; and basically all concerned are dead, as dead as you and I shall be.


I detest bolshevism of any kind, but I would not have objected to the numerous statues of Iron Felix still haunting the ex-USSR forever. For one thing they are again Art; for another they serve as warning; for the last his cause is crushed into the dust.










There is one exception to the principle, when it is bad art. Much confederate statuary is appalling. But I would merely shrug if it was replaced by decent works honouring the same men. They too have passed.
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Old 08-18-2017, 02:07 AM
Novelty Bobble Novelty Bobble is offline
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He was central figure in British history, simple as that. As has already been mentioned elsewhere there are lots of statues in London and Britain depicting problematic characters from history. But then, if you have a history like Britain you simply cannot avoid it. Our past is littered with people who were important and pivotal whilst also being utter shits and murderers. History is complicated, people are complicated, legacies are complicated. I see these statues as a recognition of that rather than each being a straightforward veneration and celebration of the person involved.
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Old 08-18-2017, 02:13 AM
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The question as to whether to erect a statue of Cromwell was very controversial at the time and had been for decades beforehand. It was deliberately not erected inside the building and wasn't paid for with public money. In fact, it was paid for anonymously by Lord Rosebery, who, perhaps uncoincidentally, was a vocal opponent of Irish Home Rule.

Other Cromwell statues were equally controversial. There were moves in Huntingdon to commission their own Cromwell statue following the unveiling of the Westminster statue. The feeling was that if Westminster could have a statue, his birthplace should have one as well. But others opposed the idea and the project was abandoned. St Ives then commissioned its own statue, mainly as a snub to Huntingdon.

It was not until a century later that Huntingdon finally installed public memorials to him. They went for the banal option of quotes carved into the pavements. Even that scheme encountered significant opposition.

It was only in the past year that Cambridge installed a public memorial to him and then only in the form of a blue plaque.
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Old 08-18-2017, 04:05 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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As a republican opposed to monarchy in any form I regard Oliver Cromwell as one of the greatest Englishmen in history. None deserve more a statue outside the Houses of Parliament. If it were erected outside Buckingham Palace that might be a problem, although it could also be a salutary reminder to the inhabitants of the Palace that not all believe they have some sort of right to be regarded as better than the rest of us.
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Old 08-18-2017, 04:28 AM
Novelty Bobble Novelty Bobble is offline
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As a republican opposed to monarchy in any form I regard Oliver Cromwell as one of the greatest Englishmen in history. None deserve more a statue outside the Houses of Parliament. If it were erected outside Buckingham Palace that might be a problem, although it could also be a salutary reminder to the inhabitants of the Palace that not all believe they have some sort of right to be regarded as better than the rest of us.
I think public sculpture and statues provide that "salutary reminder" in many situations.
We have Cromwell and various Kings and Queens to concentrate the minds of Parliament and monarchy alike that theirs is a precarious relationship. Military figures to represent the dirty business of killing people, pacifist, philanthropists, thinkers and leaders to represent that not all progress is made on the back of bloodshed and not all ideas have an easy ride or ready acceptance. Scientists, inventors and innovators who allow the world to function. Poets, writers and artists because there's no point safeguarding that world if there's nothing in it to enjoy.

And yes......among them should be despots, dictators and arseholes to remind us of previous mistakes and the progress made. I find the equation of statue=celebration to be simplistic and patronising.
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Old 08-18-2017, 04:49 AM
Stanislaus Stanislaus is offline
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You are surprized that Parliament has a statue of a man whose victory in war helped establish the concept of Supremacy of Parliament?
...and who later was at least complicit in, and probably helped orchestrate, the sending of soldiers into Parliament to drive out MPs who wouldn't vote the right way in 1649; dissolved the Rump Parliament by force in 1653 by marching in to the chamber with a squad of musketeers; used his crypto-monarchic powers as Lord Protector to dissolve the first Protectorate Parliament in 1655 because it had its own ideas about political reform; and attempted to set up direct military rule, bypassing Parliament altogether.

Having a statue of that guy outside Parliament is, frankly, a bit weird. As Novelty Bobble said, he's a complicated historical figure. And as a method of communicating historical complications, statues suck.

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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble
I see these statues as a recognition of that rather than each being a straightforward veneration and celebration of the person involved.
This is where I disagree, although I'd like not to. The obvious implication of erecting a statue is "We think this guy was great". The obvious implication of maintaining a statue is "We still think this guy was great". What is far less obvious is: who "We" are exactly; why "We" thought this guys is great; whether "We" is the same "We" in both instances; whether "We" really do still think this guy is great or just haven't thought about it much lately; and most importantly why this guy's claim to greatness might be wrong.

What statues don't clearly communicate is "We think this guy was great for these specific reasons, but acknowledge that there also many good reasons for thinking he was not great." How could they?

On preview - just seen NB's latest post.

If you already know why people are complicated, then statues do act as a salutary reminder. But if you don't, they don't really tell you anything other than "This person is worth celebrating". For example, you say that we have statues of military figures to represent the dirty business of killing people. That might be true for post WWI statuary. But the statues of e.g. Havelock and Napier in Trafalgar Square weren't put up to acknowledge the horror of bloodshed. They were straight up celebrations of British conquest and empire-building, given pride of place in the centre of the capital because conquering territories and putting down rebellions was what Britain was about. That was the story they were put up to tell. Attitudes to Empire have shifted somewhat since, but these statues do not now tell a story about the moral complications of Empire. They say that, insofar as we ever think of Havelock and Napier, we still think they're worth honouring.

None of which is to say that we shouldn't have statues in our public places. But it is worth thinking about what role we want them to play, who we want to honour and why, and to what extent the statues we do have are telling the story we want to tell. And if they don't tell our story the way we want, it's probably OK to move them, or put up new ones, or write more informative plaques.
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Old 08-18-2017, 04:51 AM
Stanislaus Stanislaus is offline
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As a republican opposed to monarchy in any form I regard Oliver Cromwell as one of the greatest Englishmen in history.
As a republican opposed to monarchy in any form, I despise Cromwell for falling for the temptations of power and making himself a monarch in all but name. The man broke bad.
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:17 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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As a republican opposed to monarchy in any form, I despise Cromwell for falling for the temptations of power and making himself a monarch in all but name. The man broke bad.
I think that was more through necessity than ambition. His refusal of a crown shows he had no desire to be an absolute ruler. The country needed a strong leader at the time as it tottered on the brink of anarchy. Nor did he have any plans for dynastic rule. On his death it was his friends that set up his son Richard, 'Tumbledown Dick', who had no wish to take the position at all.

Last edited by aldiboronti; 08-18-2017 at 07:19 AM.
  #12  
Old 08-18-2017, 11:14 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Cromwell wasn't a military dictator. Yeah, he was king in all but name, but his powers and actions were no more tyrannical than any other monarch.

The worst thing about Cromwell--warts and all--was that his failure to address his succession lead the the Stuart Restoration. Oh, and the Ireland thing. OK, among his worst actions...

The most interesting thing about King Charles I is that he was 5 foot 6 inches tall at the start of his reign but only 4 foot 8 inches tall at the end of it.
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Old 08-18-2017, 11:50 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Was it a judge whose body was exhumed and hung so that Charles II would see it as he entered London?


And since there are some British posters here, is a body of a dead person hanged or hung?
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Old 08-18-2017, 12:37 PM
Lungfish Lungfish is offline
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Was it a judge whose body was exhumed and hung so that Charles II would see it as he entered London?
His name was John Bradshaw and he was the President of the High Court of Justice for King Charles I trial. Oliver Cromwell and another man were dug up as well for the occasion. The three bodies were decapitated at sunset and thrown into a pit, while the heads were put on pikes.
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Old 08-18-2017, 01:30 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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...and who later was at least complicit in, and probably helped orchestrate, the sending of soldiers into Parliament to drive out MPs who wouldn't vote the right way in 1649; dissolved the Rump Parliament by force in 1653 by marching in to the chamber with a squad of musketeers; used his crypto-monarchic powers as Lord Protector to dissolve the first Protectorate Parliament in 1655 because it had its own ideas about political reform; and attempted to set up direct military rule, bypassing Parliament altogether.

The reason people admire Cromwell (and I say this as someone who has quite a bit of admiration for him) has more to do with what he was against (hereditary monarchy) than what he was actually for.

Cromwell led the first anti-monarchical revolution in a major European power (or the first in the early modern era anyway, I'm not as up as I should be on medieval republics), and therrfore was more historically important than people like Jefferson, Washington, the French revolutionaries, esp., as significant as they were. And he signifies the idea that personal virtue and character are what qualify one to rule, rather than heredity. Whether you agree with that or not (and it's certainly true that he wasn't a democrat or a liberal in the modern sense), it's certainly a principle that shook the early modern and modern worlds to their foundation, and so I think he deserves a statue.
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Old 08-18-2017, 01:45 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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It's just insane how little Americans know about the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. And by "how little" I mean absolutely nothing. You won't find one American in twenty who would even recognize the name.

The English Civil War and the Restoration set the stage for the American Revolution, what with all the rights of Parliament and the citizenry. It was kind of a big deal. And it is never, ever, ever, ever mentioned when they teach kids about history. It goes from Columbus to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, then we skip right ahead to 1775, where the idea of rebelling against the King and republican government are taught as brand new previously unthinkable innovations.
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Old 08-18-2017, 02:04 PM
Larry Borgia Larry Borgia is online now
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The concept of "war criminal" may not have existed at the time but Cromwell certainly fits the bill for his actions at Drogheda. Even at the time the massacre was controversial and Cromwell wrote letters justifying it. (Basically, "God said it was totally ok.")

I'm with The Pogues here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-y2ox2HPnc

ETA: But I'm not English or Irish, what they do with the statue is their business.

Last edited by Larry Borgia; 08-18-2017 at 02:05 PM.
  #18  
Old 08-18-2017, 02:36 PM
ganthet ganthet is offline
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The English Civil War and the Restoration set the stage for the American Revolution, what with all the rights of Parliament and the citizenry. It was kind of a big deal. And it is never, ever, ever, ever mentioned when they teach kids about history. It goes from Columbus to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, then we skip right ahead to 1775, where the idea of rebelling against the King and republican government are taught as brand new previously unthinkable innovations.
As mentioned above, part of it seems to be the deliberate effort of Charles II and successors to literally dismember Cromwell and Cromwell's legacy and memory. The other part is the different nature of the civil wars. Cromwell of course wanted to depose the King and rule (along with parliament, in theory) in his place the whole kingdom/commonwealth. The Continental Congress wanted to break off as a new, separate nation-state that did not previously exist. This was a fairly new proposition, given that the concept of nation-states were still relatively new following the Peace of Westphalia. If America wanted to depose King George III and either take over or install a colony-friendly monarch, then it would be easier to draw a direct line between Cromwell and the American Revolution.
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Old 08-18-2017, 03:10 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Was the execution of the French king seen as a horrible act by the British? I recall reading that it was at the time a shocking crime, and would create problems for kingdoms and government if people thought they could wack their rulers at will. But the English had already done it.
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Old 08-18-2017, 03:40 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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As mentioned above, part of it seems to be the deliberate effort of Charles II and successors to literally dismember Cromwell and Cromwell's legacy and memory. The other part is the different nature of the civil wars. Cromwell of course wanted to depose the King and rule (along with parliament, in theory) in his place the whole kingdom/commonwealth. The Continental Congress wanted to break off as a new, separate nation-state that did not previously exist. This was a fairly new proposition, given that the concept of nation-states were still relatively new following the Peace of Westphalia. If America wanted to depose King George III and either take over or install a colony-friendly monarch, then it would be easier to draw a direct line between Cromwell and the American Revolution.
I don't really see Cromwell as that closely analogous to the American revolutionaries. My sense is that he believed his right-to-rule came from God, not from the people (he was much more of a Puritan true believer than the American 'founding fathers', who were largely deists & agnostics).
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Old 08-18-2017, 04:17 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is online now
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It's just insane how little Americans know about the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. And by "how little" I mean absolutely nothing. You won't find one American in twenty who would even recognize the name.

The English Civil War and the Restoration set the stage for the American Revolution, what with all the rights of Parliament and the citizenry. It was kind of a big deal. And it is never, ever, ever, ever mentioned when they teach kids about history. It goes from Columbus to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, then we skip right ahead to 1775, where the idea of rebelling against the King and republican government are taught as brand new previously unthinkable innovations.
It's true that in American high schools, there is very little attention given to the English civil war. In my World History class, it was ancient Greece and Rome, a rush through the medieval times, a rush to the Industrial Revolution, then to the World Wars and way too much time dedicated to Israel and the Cold War.

However, in college, this isn't the case. My very first American History college class featured an entire lecture on Martin Luther and another lecture on Cromwell and the English civil war. I found his approach to teaching American history with a heavy dose of European history to be perfect.
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Old 08-18-2017, 06:22 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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It's just insane how little Americans know about the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. And by "how little" I mean absolutely nothing. You won't find one American in twenty who would even recognize the name.
One of my cats is named after him. The other is named after Prince Rupert and I'm guessing that he might come in at 100:1 ( Canadians would presumably do better ).
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Old 08-19-2017, 04:14 AM
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Just because you happen to disagree with someone's politics doesn't mean you should get rid of their statue.You cannot re-write history and things like statues contribute towards the rich tapestry of a country's historical past. At the time, Cromwell had his followers so you have to try to take a balanced view on the pros and cons pertaining at the time. There was nothing particularly great about an absolute monarchy and if Cromwell's regime had continued things could have worked out, I'm no expert so I don't know.

Obviously, it wouldn't be right to have a statue of Hitler on display since he was responsible for so much genocide, although having said that what about the Roman Emperors? I guess it's more relevant in modern times so we have to look at each case on its merit.
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Old 08-19-2017, 10:21 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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Was the execution of the French king seen as a horrible act by the British? I recall reading that it was at the time a shocking crime, and would create problems for kingdoms and government if people thought they could wack their rulers at will. But the English had already done it.
Yes it was. So was the death of the Romanovs.

As to Cromwell, his reign (and I think it was a reign, he was King in all but name - plus his idiot son inherited the Lord Protector title, IIRC) did substantially limit the powers of the monarchy - which is a really good thing - and changed the nature of British power. I don't have an issue with him at Westminster - I would in front of Buckingham Palace.

But I'm American. I happen to like the British Constitutional Monarchy as it stands. The consistency a monarch give you to "advise" is something we sorely lack - and it Elizabeth you've had sixty years of someone who is pretty intelligent and aware. I'm sure you get your duds - and it seems many people are not looking forward to Charles' (probably short) reign, but the PM smiling and nodding at Charles once a week for a few years seems a reasonable price to pay. And I know that the monarchy costs a lot of money - but so does our Presidency - especially currently - and we aren't getting the tourist dollars off of mugs with Trump's mug on them.
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Old 08-19-2017, 10:48 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Yes it was. So was the death of the Romanovs.
Yet they still refused to give the Tsar and his family refuge in Britain, for fear that they would be seen to give aid to a despotic ruler.
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Old 08-19-2017, 12:56 PM
blindboyard blindboyard is offline
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One of my cats is named after him. The other is named after Prince Rupert and I'm guessing that he might come in at 100:1 ( Canadians would presumably do better ).
My town was besieged three times in the war, and one of those times it was relieved by Prince Rupert.
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Old 08-19-2017, 01:32 PM
casdave casdave is offline
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It's just insane how little Americans know about the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. And by "how little" I mean absolutely nothing. You won't find one American in twenty who would even recognize the name.
This surprises me, you would imagine that American kids probably don't have all that much American history to learn, only a few hundred years or so - which is after all just last week - you'd think that US schools would import a little more
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Old 08-19-2017, 02:53 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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This surprises me, you would imagine that American kids probably don't have all that much American history to learn, only a few hundred years or so - which is after all just last week - you'd think that US schools would import a little more
My daughter is a Senior in high school, my son just graduated. They had Global Human Geography, World History, American History - just in high school (the Senior year social studies coursework is Econ and PoliSci). She also had the dumbed down version of American History/Geography/World History in middle school and quite a bit of it in elementary school.

That said, there is a ton of History to cover. World History is "non-Westernized" - in other words, we don't choose to learn Britian's History - we learn Britain as well as France as well as China, as well as Africa, as well as Japan, as well as.....well, you get the point. 4000 years of human history is a lot to cover, and Britain doesn't get a ton of focus in high school.

A whole year of American History when we don't even have 250 years to cover - well, they start with Native Pre-History. What was this country like before Europeans even got here. Then we get exploration, and colonization, and revolution - its November before we even have a United States to study. England 66 monarchs that cover 1550 years, the U.S. crams 45 Presidents into 20% of that time - and even William Henry Harrison needs his fifteen minutes (which is only slightly shorter than his presidency)

I know Cromwell gets covered in both the regular World History and AP World courses, but it might not get cemented in with the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, the colonization and independence of India, the Pinochet reign in South America, the Shogunate, the Mongol invasion, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and how the Polynesians migrated all the way to Hawaii.
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Old 08-19-2017, 08:55 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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My daughter is a Senior in high school, my son just graduated. They had Global Human Geography, World History, American History - just in high school (the Senior year social studies coursework is Econ and PoliSci). She also had the dumbed down version of American History/Geography/World History in middle school and quite a bit of it in elementary school.

That said, there is a ton of History to cover. World History is "non-Westernized" - in other words, we don't choose to learn Britian's History - we learn Britain as well as France as well as China, as well as Africa, as well as Japan, as well as.....well, you get the point. 4000 years of human history is a lot to cover, and Britain doesn't get a ton of focus in high school.

A whole year of American History when we don't even have 250 years to cover - well, they start with Native Pre-History. What was this country like before Europeans even got here. Then we get exploration, and colonization, and revolution - its November before we even have a United States to study. England 66 monarchs that cover 1550 years, the U.S. crams 45 Presidents into 20% of that time - and even William Henry Harrison needs his fifteen minutes (which is only slightly shorter than his presidency)

I know Cromwell gets covered in both the regular World History and AP World courses, but it might not get cemented in with the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, the colonization and independence of India, the Pinochet reign in South America, the Shogunate, the Mongol invasion, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and how the Polynesians migrated all the way to Hawaii.
Polynesians actually may have made it to the South American coast around the time the Vikings were colonizing Greenland. Although it is the subject of some controversy.

Sweet potatoes, which are a South American crop and don't survive immersion in water well, were present among Polynesians around 1000 AD, and there are also arguments for trans-oceanic voyages made on the basis of coconuts, chickens and IIRC the bottle gourd.
  #30  
Old 08-20-2017, 12:29 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is online now
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This surprises me, you would imagine that American kids probably don't have all that much American history to learn, only a few hundred years or so - which is after all just last week - you'd think that US schools would import a little more
It, of course, depends on what pace you teach the course at. In my high school, the history classes and literature classes were often tied together. You're studying ancient Rome and reading Julius Caesar, The Scarlet Letter was read while we learned about colonial life in American History, To Kill A Mockingbird was tied in with the civil rights struggles.

Also, at my school, history classes were also used as convenient place to dump a lot of other miscellaneous topics. There were always a couple of weeks devoted to anti-drug propaganda. There were also interruptions for various lessons about college applications.
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