A Radical Narrative for Britons

In the Observer, historian Tristam Hunt has entered the debate about teaching British values. As with others, he believes the key is teaching a British narrative in schools and museums. However, he argues that while the public iconography of our history is one of Empire and monarchy (the influence of the Victorians), there is plenty of material of the radicals and key moments which led to the democratisation of the British state – Magna Carta, the Levellers Agreement, the Glorious Revolution, Catholic Emancipation – that should be the core of the narrative.

He also believes it will engender a commitment to democratic participation:

“It does not have to be a Whiggish narrative of ever- broadening freedom, nor yet a Marxist account of aristocratic and imperial intransigence. Rather, a complex, conflicting, yet ultimately progressive history of the ebb and flow of democracy and the people who made it happen. If we lose this cultural memory of democracy, if we turn Levellers’ Day from a living history into a museum piece, then it will be no surprise if the trip to the polling booth becomes ever more unpopular.”