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hollywood vs history
iggy Posted: Wed Apr 7 20:43:46 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  1066 and all that: how Hollywood is giving Britain a false sense of history
By Cahal Milmo
05 April 2004

The Battle of Hastings never took place and Adolf Hitler is a fictional character. Robin Hood really existed, Harold Wilson saved Britain during the Second World War and Conan the Barbarian is a bona fide figure from early Nordic history.

It might sound like the latest attempt by revisionist extremists to pervert the past but the reality is perhaps more disturbing: this is how a significant chunk of the British population, muddled by Hollywood films and unmoved by academia, sees history.

A survey of the historical knowledge of the average adult, to be published this week, has uncovered "absurd and depressing" areas of ignorance about past events, and confusion between characters from films and historical figures.

Researchers, who conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 2,000 people, found that almost a third of the population thinks the Cold War was not real and 6 per cent believeThe War of the Worlds, H G Wells's fictional account of a Martian invasion, did happen.

Some 57 per cent think King Arthur existed and 5 per cent accept that Conan the Barbarian, the warrior played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 1982 film, used to stalk the planet for real. Almost one in two believe William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish resistance leader played by Mel Gibson in his film Braveheart, was invented for the silver screen.

The study raised new questions about the teaching of history after it found that 11 per cent of the British population believed Hitler did not exist and 9 per cent said Winston Churchill was fictional. A further 33 per cent believed Mussolini was not a real historical figure.

Lord Janner of Braunstone, the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "Such findings show that in our schools we are not conveying sufficiently the recent past - a past in which many of us lived and so many people died.

"If we are to prevent the return of Hitlerism in our present or future, we have to know what happened in the lifetimes of so many of us.

"It is a terrible indictment of the level of knowledge of the general population."

The detractors of the survey's findings blamed Hollywood and television, which have gained a reputation for skewing historical events to fit audience profiles and lift profit margins.

The film U-571, starring Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi, sparked fury in Britain four years ago when it told how American servicemen altered the course of the Second World War by capturing the Enigma code machine from a German U-boat. In fact, it was British and Canadian sailors who captured the machine in May 1941, before the US had entered the war.

The survey of 2,069 adults aged 16 or over was conducted for Blenheim Palace to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.

Some 27 per cent of people interviewed thought Robin Hood, whose story has been featured in films by directors such as Kevin Costner and Mel Brooks, existed whereas 42 per cent believed Mel Gibson's Braveheart was an invention. More than 60 thought the Battle of Helms Deep in the Lord of the Rings trilogy actually took place.

Michael Wood, the historian, said the "dumbing-down" trend was damaging people's knowledge of the past.

He said: "If you don't give an audience a clear idea of how we know things, I believe this is a problem. Hollywood distorts history the whole time and once you get that far down the line it's not history, it's entertainment.

"History is there to give value to the present as well as to entertain. You do diminish it if you take the mickey out of it in an attempt to make it 'accessible'."

More than a quarter of people do not know in which century the Great War took place and 57 per cent believe that the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazi counter-offensive in the Ardennes in 1945, never happened.

A further 53 per cent think the military leader who lead British troops at Waterloo was Lord Nelson whereas a quarter think the admiral's fatal triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar did not take place. Nearly one in five believe Harold Wilson, not Winston Churchill, was Prime Minister during the Second World War.

John Hoy, the chief executive of Blenheim Palace, said history had become boring. He said: "People associate history with dry and dusty dates and facts. Once they realise that history is about people, the way we used to live and the way we live now, it becomes more relevant and more exciting."

Others pointed to the popularity of history programmes. Francis Robinson, the senior vice principal of Royal Holloway, University of London, said the delivery of history to a wider audience was a worthy goal.

He said: "I have no problem with using different media to get across the message to different sections of the audience. There is always a chance of misrepresentation, but you have to weigh up that against the broader good of encouraging more people's interest."

But Andrew Roberts, the right-wing historian, said: "We have abandoned the teaching of history according to dates and context - if you don't know that the Tudors came before the Stuarts then you can't understand anything of that period.

"Within a generation we are going to lose our national memory and for Britain, which has such a unique and complex history, that is a complete tragedy."

Sstranger than fiction: Disraeli, Hitler and the Cold War

Real people that some believe never existed
Ethelred the Unready King of England 978 to 1016 - 63 per cent
William Wallace 13th-century Scottish hero - 42 per cent
Benjamin Disraeli Prime minister and founder of the modern Tory party - 40 per cent
Genghis Khan, Mongol conqueror - 38 per cent
Benito Mussolini, Fascist dictator, 33 per cent
Adolf Hitler - 11 per cent
Winston Churchill - 9 per cent

Real events some people believe never took place
Battle of the Bulge 52 per cent
Battle of Little Big Horn Scene of Custer's last stand - 48 per cent
Hundred Years' War 44 per cent
Cold War - 32 per cent
Battle of Hastings, 15 per cent

Fictional characters who we believe were real
King Arthur , mythical monarch of the Round Table - 57 per cent
Robin Hood - 27 per cent
Conan the Barbarian - 5 per cent
Richard Sharpe , fictional cad and warrior - 3 per cent
Edmund Blackadder - 1 per cent
Xena Warrior Princess - 1 per cent

Fictional events that we believe did take place
War of the Worlds , Martian invasion - 6 per cent
Battle of Helms Deep , Rings Trilogy - The Two Towers - 3 per cent
Battle of Endor , The Return of the Jedi - 2 per cent
Planet of the Apes , the apes rule Earth - 1 per cent
Battlestar Galactica , the defeat of humanity by cyborgs - 1 per cent



 
DaveHill Posted: Thu Apr 8 10:40:51 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  I will pray for an apocalypse harder now. I don't want to know where this will end.


 
simonvii Posted: Thu Apr 8 13:28:12 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  obviously this study is skewed; not only is interviewing only a rough 3000 people not a large enough case study to be extrapolated, but to say that 1% of them believe the planet of the apes actually happened just goes to show you that people didnt take this survey seriously


 
mat_j Posted: Fri Apr 9 09:12:57 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Some Interesting points on the article

Robin Hood really existed,

Not exactly but many Saxons from 1066 onwards did what Robin did in response to the new Feudal laws, there are well documented rebellions in the North of England of Saxon communities that survived on Marshlands that were impassable to the Normans at the time. Also In a land that was mostly covered in trees it would be relatively easy to become an outlaw like the Merry men.
>
>It might sound like the latest attempt by revisionist extremists to pervert the past but the reality is perhaps more disturbing: this is how a significant chunk of the British population, muddled by Hollywood films and unmoved by academia, sees history.

I knew this American girl once in my first year of university who tried to persuade me that Hollywood can't change history and that the moving image isn't that much of a propaganda tool, that is the most dangerous line of thought i have ever heard!!


>Researchers, who conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 2,000 people, found that almost a third of the population thinks the Cold War was not real and 6 per cent believeThe War of the Worlds, H G Wells's fictional account of a Martian invasion, did happen.

Some people are just plain stoopid!


>Some 57 per cent think King Arthur existed

There's enough evidence to suggest a figure with the Roman equivalent name to Arthur rose to prominance after the Empire left Britain in the 400s and was actually part of a group of Russian mercenaries sent to Britain by the Romans

Almost one in two believe William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish resistance leader played by Mel Gibson in his film Braveheart, was invented for the silver screen.

this part is technically true too, the real William Wallace was not a lot like his heroic on screen persona, he was of Welsh ancestory (Wallis-Waleas-Wales) spoke mostly french and counted among his favourite pastimes as murdering Monks

>
>The study raised new questions about the teaching of history after it found that 11 per cent of the British population believed Hitler did not exist and 9 per cent said Winston Churchill was fictional.

Frankly i'm surprised it was so few!!

A further 33 per cent believed Mussolini was not a real historical figure.

I tend to agree ;)

>The film U-571, starring Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi, sparked fury in Britain four years ago when it told how American servicemen altered the course of the Second World War by capturing the Enigma code machine from a German U-boat. In fact, it was British and Canadian sailors who captured the machine in May 1941, before the US had entered the war.

Although technically speaking this truth that Britains hold so dear about cracking enigma could never have happened if the Polish hadn't done it before them and given them the results


>The survey of 2,069 adults aged 16 or over was conducted for Blenheim Palace to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.

For some reason the wars of Spanish Succession have never been put on a major BBC documentary with flashy graphics and famous actors, because everyones so bloody enthralled with Sharks and Nazis! I'd lvoe to see more 17th and 18th century history on TV but it's not being made by documentary makers who are obsessed with those rating winning Nazis and sharks

More than 60 thought the Battle of Helms Deep in the Lord of the Rings trilogy actually took place.
>
Methinks some people were taking the piss!!


>A further 53 per cent think the military leader who lead British troops at Waterloo was Lord Nelson whereas a quarter think the admiral's fatal triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar did not take place.

They fear we'll forget about it but then try to ban celebrations of Nelsons life on his Brithday next year for fear of upsetting the French!!!!!!!


>He said: "I have no problem with using different media to get across the message to different sections of the audience. There is always a chance of misrepresentation, but you have to weigh up that against the broader good of encouraging more people's interest."

NO MORE PROGRAMMES ON DISCOVERY ABOUT SHARKS AND NAZIS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!


>"Within a generation we are going to lose our national memory and for Britain, which has such a unique and complex history, that is a complete tragedy."

Although i doubt this will happen


>Real people that some believe never existed
>Ethelred the Unready King of England 978 to 1016 - 63 per cent

To be fair Ethelred was unready, nobody remembers a loser :)

>Fictional characters who we believe were real
>Xena Warrior Princess - 1 per cent


What is it with some people, Xena was real and she rocked our world!!!


 
zander83 Posted: Fri Apr 9 16:30:06 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Actualy 3000 people is a fairly good sample... the error on such a sample might be between .5% and 1% tending more torawards the .5. Now whether they took it seriously i doubt it...


 
libra Posted: Fri Apr 9 18:05:29 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  hehe, yay for zander the statistician!

we're doing that kind of stuff in my stat class right now...fun fun fun.


 
simonvii Posted: Sun Apr 11 12:17:16 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  mat_j said:
>Some Interesting points on the article
>
> Robin Hood really existed,
>
>Not exactly but many Saxons from 1066 onwards did what Robin did in response to the new Feudal laws

actually theres an interesting documentary where the life of robin hood is compared to the life of william wallace (i.e. their girls were Marion and Maron, both of them had their families killed, lived in the wild, etc.) and a lot of people think that robin hoods story and wallace's are the same, one based on the other...also tho there is a grave in england or somewheres whose name reads "robin of the hood" or something from way way back, however most scholars believe he was just a normal person, if i can find the book and passage upstairs ill pass it on...


 
addi Posted: Mon Apr 12 07:46:33 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  I have to deal with history every day in my line of work. In my fantasy world I wish there were "real time" videos capturing all of historys greatest people and events. One thing i am sure we'd discover after watching them is that what we were taught as historical truth, and what really happened are two different things in many cases. Misconceptions and out and out untruths about what really happened, and the actions and words of past leaders would astound us I'm sure.

By definition a historical event can't be altered. It's happened, and it can only happen once and that's that. But it's interesting (to me at least) that our understanding of something static and unchanging can be so fluid and changing. Not that long ago in America Custer was a hero and Little Big Horn was a tragedy. Now we look at the same exact event in a totally different light.
Perceptions, technology, attitudes, and other factors come into play and end up affecting and influencing our views of historical truth.

It's good to be back with you strange people. (not to work though. that still sucks)


 
marsi Posted: Mon Apr 12 07:55:27 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  addison said:
> It's good to be back with you strange people. (not to work though. that still sucks)

It's good to have you back.
How was your vacation?


 
addi Posted: Mon Apr 12 09:04:37 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  marsi said:

>It's good to have you back.
>How was your vacation?

It was great, thanks for asking marsi. Crystal clear water, white sand, and no 5 AM wake up alarm. About the only negative thing was all the spring break college girls on the beach wearing next to nothing. It's amazing what passes for a swim suit these days. It's very frustrating to be surrounded by all that eye candy knowing it's off limits : )


 
libra Posted: Mon Apr 12 14:01:41 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Addi!

so glad you're back. I hope this doesn't go to your head, but i think the forum kinda slowed down when you left...


 
addi Posted: Mon Apr 12 14:40:50 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
 
>so glad you're back. I hope this doesn't go to your head, but i think the forum kinda slowed down when you left...

lol. thanks Libra!

I'm sure for others it actually sped up not having to wade through all my wordy posts.


 
FN Posted: Mon Apr 12 17:49:51 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  addison said:
>
>>so glad you're back. I hope this doesn't go to your head, but i think the forum kinda slowed down when you left...
>
>lol. thanks Libra!
>
>I'm sure for others it actually sped up not having to wade through all my wordy posts.


Not my words addi, you said so yourself, I was planning on avoiding the subject.


 
addi Posted: Mon Apr 12 17:56:57 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  Christophe said:

>Not my words addi, you said so yourself, I was planning on avoiding the subject.

i didn't understand that post, but maybe it's just cuz i'm american. anyway if that was your subtle belgian way of saying you missed me more than Libra did, thank you!


 
FN Posted: Mon Apr 12 18:18:27 2004 Post | Quote in Reply  
  addison said:
>Christophe said:
>
>>Not my words addi, you said so yourself, I was planning on avoiding the subject.
>
>i didn't understand that post, but maybe it's just cuz i'm american. anyway if that was your subtle belgian way of saying you missed me more than Libra did, thank you!


Perhaps, you soft lefty unpatriotic communist.


 



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