History is bunk

July 9, 2009

In "1588 and all that" (11 June), Felipe Fernandez-Armesto takes a pointless (if inoffensive) swipe at Ben Macintyre for stating that less than 50 per cent of under-34s know that "Sir Francis Drake defeated the Spanish Armada". The point Macintyre implicitly makes is that most of them probably don't know when the Armada occurred to the nearest century. Faced with your contributor's illustrious name, they might assume him to be a vanquished admiral, not an academic.

Such ignorance is the product of a period in our history presided over by an abject Government devoted to "industry-facing" research and to "knowledge transfer" at the expense of knowledge. Transmission is all, substance is nothing. Part of Tony Blair's legacy is a shallow indifference to the cultural and social past, or to any meaningful distinction between what happened in 1588 and what happened last Wednesday.

Francis Pott, Professor of composition, London College of Music, Thames Valley University.

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