When  I was a small child, in the September of 1943 I started school. The school was just opposite the house I lived in, so it took just a few minutes to walk round to the gate. It was a large brick building with four school yards. I was keen to start school, my father was away in the army and mother was very busy, shopping, cooking and cleaning, looking after my little sister and me. All those jobs were very time consuming and physically demanding. I had a very nice young woman as my first teacher and it was very interesting to hear the nursery rhymes and stories she told. I soon discovered that there were a lot of things that were new to me. I don’t remember learning to count, or read or write, these things at first seemed puzzling but soon became familiar and allowed me to enter another world. My best friend had very blonde hair and blue eyes, she learnt everything very quickly, Joyce lived in the next street and like me she had a younger sister. I was a quiet girl and tagged along behind Joyce whenever I could.  The big event was to join the free library, the teacher had to sign a card to say that you could read and would take care of their books. At that time books were in very short supply,  most of the books in school and the library had been published in the 1920s and 30s. But being able to read a new book for free was very enticing, mother told me that I could only go to the library with my sister, she was in the class below me so I had to wait  until she got her ticket, then we could both get on the tram to the library.

Nowadays we have film and video easily available they are amazingly effective teaching tools. It can be argued that we need to know the individuals and organisations who are producing these films. A film can be extremely selective about the truth it reveals and indeed omits to reveal. Worse than that it can actually tell lies.

The horrors of the way the very poor live in this country and many others, are such that we don’t want to know. Very few people are interested in watching sad and upsetting pictures and the rulers are fiercely against such stories becoming public knowledge, even democracies such as the UK have methods of preventing such unpleasant information coming into the public domain.

The same thing is true of the printed book, every historian looks at the facts and sees some facts that are more important than others. Who was the Prime Minister: Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron. What were the decisions made: who paid more tax, who paid less, who paid for the educational system? The middle class who did they vote for and why? The  daily lives of the ninety-nine percent are frequently left to novelists and poets. Of course there are now more historians who themselves came from the working class and often they give us a different view of history. We learn the truth from many different histories and sometimes these change over time.

Myself I looked to history to learn something about me and my family and how we fitted into the wider society. I still have a lot to learn.


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