On Friday 6 September, David Cameron refuted a Russian official's summation that Britain was 'just a small island' by delivering a speech that reeked of a Gove-esque approach to popular history entwined with petulant patriotism. He seemed to cry out that "Britain's one of the bigger kids too, even if it wasn't allowed to go to war this time", calling upon the rhetoric of the past as if to prove Britain's place in the present world and reimagining it as it suited him.
Politicians love to invoke history. It's fodder for Syria, tax policy, welfare reform and what to do about the environment. The late historian Tony Judt once argued that we suffer from a dangerous illusion, namely "'that we live in a time without precedent . . . and that the past has nothing to teach us''. Sure enough.
When I was asked to think about a project drawing on the musical history of Carnaby (Carnaby Street itself plus the 12 streets that surround it), I thought about what it meant for a place to be so strongly associated with a time, in the way Carnaby Street has been with the 1960s. Often when I have mentioned the project to people, they have answered by talking about 'that time' as if it only existed then.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was something of an enigma. At the age of three, he started studying Latin and, allegedly, finished reading a multi-volume history of England by the age of four. He is known as the founder of Utilitarianism, a leading theorist in the Anglo-American philosophy of law, and the spiritual founder of University College London.
The pocketbook is much more than this. It represents the growing need for bodies in the dissection room at the beginning of the 19th century, and the willingness by some anatomists to turn a blind eye to the dubious doings of those who procured the dead on their behalf. In short, the pocketbook represents a dark and sordid part of our medical history.
Home Office figures released recently suggest that in the past twelve months more than 350,000 young people have used nitrous oxide - also known as 'laughing gas', and 'hippie crack' - to achieve a legal high. This makes it the second-most popular drug in the UK after cannabis, and even Prince Harry was said to have had a toot on it three years ago.
It has taken me 15 years to pick up a history book ever since that horrendously mundane exposure, but what a book to pick up! A Little History of the World by E.H Gombrich. Of course, I had to opt for the paperback as the dear old book has been in print now since 1935. Nevertheless, despite its age, this book was a profoundly excellent read.
Whether you're searching for long-lost family or want more information about your ancestors, you might find lots of scandals and surprises along the way. From bigamy to secret children and even prison sentences, it's amazing what information you can dig up and it can easily become quite addictive. So just how do you get started?
Without more respect in the genealogy community the popularity of genealogy will begin to crash and burn, the growth will stop, and the buzz will cease. To me it is simple .... Far more folks in genealogy need to be respectful and accepting of anyone's, and everyone's, reasons for undertaking their genealogy, ancestral studies, and pursuit of their family history.