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Letters OCTOBER 2010

The opinions expressed by our commentators are their own and may not represent the views of BBC History Magazine, Bristol Magazines Limited or BBC Worldwide


When Britain was Roman zine Balancing the Nor mans As someone who has a partic ular interest in the period of transi tion from an English (Saxon/Dan ish) hierarchy to a Norman one, August was a good month. T here was an abundance o f TV programmes, with the Au gust edition of this magazine featu ring an interesting article about

IN OUR RECENT reader survey (July issue), Roman history came out as a topic that many of you enjoy. Those of you who ticked that box should turn straight to page 24 for our feature highlighting the key moments in Roman Britain. We’ve garnered the opinions of a select panel of historians and historical novelists to discover the pivotal moments in the 400-year occupation of the province of Britannia – from Caesar’s “brief ” invasions to the first peasants’ revolt.

The survey has confirmed that the Second World War continues to be an enduring draw. One of the key players in the conflict was the Italian leader Benito Mussolini. On page 34, RJB Bosworth reveals what the recently published diaries of Mussolini’s lover tells us about the dictator as he prepared his country for war.

Social history also scored highly in the survey. If you’re a fan, then why not turn to page 62 and have a look at the piece on how parents coped with grief in the 17th century. It’s a sad story, but a good read.

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey for us. The results will, I hope, enable us to make the magazine an even better read for you. The winner of the survey prize draw is Mr V Lloyd of Solihull, who now has an Apple iPad to play with. I hope you enjoy the issue.

the Domesday sur vey. A common feature was reference to the Bayeux Tape stry and the Domesday Book. Yet they are both Norman in origin,

and give a Norman point of v iew. There is another document of the period that has been overloo ked: namely the Anglo-S axon Chronicles. But

why? In the period from Hasting s to Domesday and beyond, the pe ople of England were subjecte d to horrendous treatment by what can only be described as a ban d of thugs, who took al most everything, as Domesday cle arly shows. Goodness knows wha t it must have been like for the ordinary English. Abso lute purgatory, I would imag ine. Indeed one only has to read the lines of the Chronicles. This is the untold story of ordinary pe ople who picked up the tab, so to sp eak. They are the people from whom manyaredescended.Theirs tory deserves a hear

􏰀 􏰀 e Dr David Musgrove Edito ing. So, to give the Norman se ason some balance, could we hav e an article on the Chronicles of this period, and have the Eng lish version of eve nts? Mike Pin chen Chisleh read A Norman carving of a peasant thres hing. But have we ignored the English viewp oint? in the literary world is a good thing if it increases the time 11 to 12-year-olds spend stu dying history (48 per cent spend less than an hour a week doin g so, according to the Histo rical Association) and, in turn , the history GCSE up take. Yet what Mark Lawson call s the “Oliver Stone phenomen on” – referring to the vast quanti ty of Americans who take Stone’s

1991 filmJFKasread–isaca usefor concern. Paul Greengrass’ s 2010 film Green Zone is a case in point. It cuts so close to the bone of non-fiction that,

as TIME magazine’s film revie wer says, you’ll “have to sit throug h all the end credits to read that this is a worko ffiction”. Although author Rob ert Harris writes in a disclaimer inside the front cover of The Ghost that “Any resemblance to actu al persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental, ” the 2007 book remains nothing other than a fictional device inven r On the October podcas t To complement features in the magazine, we have a n audio podcast each month. It’s free, and you can liste n at any time. Download from 24 September from ou r website or subscribe via iTune s Miles Russell talks Britannia 􏰀 Roman Britain: The Key Moments, page 24 RJB Bosworth discusses Il Duce’s love life 􏰀 Mussolini Frustrated, page

34 Dr Hannah Newton on grief 􏰀 “Not a Sadder Creature in the World”, pag urst The bits they mad e up I could not disa gree more with

Ian Mortimer (Histor ical Novelists Shouldn’ t be Ashamed of Tel ling Lies, August). D on’t get me wrong,

ted for the purpose of settling a polit ical score . No wonder Nia ll Ferguson be lieves such fiction “ contaminate s historical und erstanding”. Unle ss novelists mark e 62

the arrival of histor ical fiction as a new p in bold type the bi page BBC History Maga layer Many Americans take Oliver Stone’s JFK as ts

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