THE CHANGING FACE OF DURHAM.

I have lived in the city of Durham  for fifty years, I surprise myself when I say that. In that time there have been many changes. The city seemed at that time to be small, although the very fact that I moved into a new house on an estate was a very visible sign of change, schools were being built, an increasingly busy bus station and of course the railway station which linked us to the rest of the country. Durham University although established in 1832 was up until the end of the 1950s  relatively small, the students numbered in hundreds, and to a large extent separate from the city. This situation was in the process of change; free higher education and grants for students living away from home opened up this branch of education to a much wider section of the population. The University was quick to seize this business opportunity and soon became the most important part of the economic life of the city and therefore had considerable influence with Durham County Council. [No of students?]

    There has been an equally big change in the domestic life inside most homes, I’m talking about television and the whole digital revolution, the mobile phone, the laptop and the computer. I grew up in a home without a phone or a television set. I remember the year the television set  first appeared in my home, 1958. It was small and the pictures were in black and white, it was thrilling. Change now proceeds at a break-neck pace. Television channels occupy several pages in our programme guide, some of it made decades ago. I’m not complaining, I read books written in the nineteenth century and they still reveal something interesting about the way human beings live. A few months ago I spotted a station previously unknown to me, PBS America, I tuned in. I assume the letters stand for Public Broadcasting Service, that is to say programmes whose purpose is to tell the whole truth about events in American history from an academic point of view. There will come a time when films made from an accurate, unbiased academic viewpoint will be used in schools in much the same way that books are used now or more likely in addition to books. The programme that I’m watching is The Civil War which took place in the 1860s, much of the film was taken at the time of the war, the bodies just lying in the field, the narrative telling how many thousands of young men died, their words from the letters they sent home , incredibly moving, the soldiers became real people. The scenes of where the battles were fought and the generals view of what they were trying to accomplish.  I have seen many fictionalised war films  none had the impact of this true account.

    This wonderful technology and the work of hundreds of people are making our own history available to everyone regardless of age or country or previous educational level.  Marvellous!!!

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