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Utilitarian barbarians at the gates

According to today's Guardian, Charles Clarke, the education secretary, has attacked the principle of public funding for "ornamental" HE disciplines such as medieval studies (having already said much the same about classics) on the grounds "that universities exist to enable the British economy and society to deal with the challenges posed by the increasingly rapid process of global change". So farewell to learning for learning's sake, hello to more vocational courses (and dare I say it, Mickey Mouse degrees, as Margaret Hodge would term them).

(the Times Higher broke the story, while Tristram Hunt has a good comment piece in the Guardian)

So ias, my little ornament, I'm sure you're dying to rant on this...

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The view from the mantlepiece

[Apologies for the incoherence following - am v. tired and I hope you catch my drift]

Part of me wonders what is the point in even trying to argue with such ignorance - I have tried before to little success. So why Medieval History (or in my case medieval studies - killing two birds with one stone by having the despised 'Mikey Mouse'-ism of studies)?

Well, I could just answer, why not? We don't know everything about the Middle Ages by a long shot - there is still stuff to be learnt, so why not go and discover it?

On a more practical note, if no medieval history, why study history at all? Where you you stop - the 1900's, 1850? Where?
If no-one studies history, what will happen to international affairs? Who will be there to advise the diplomats? Who will tell them it is not a good idea to bring up certain subjects, who will do the background briefings?
If no-one studies history what will happen to the heritage industry which brings in billions every year. No history, no archaeologists. History is big business.
If no historians, who will debunk the cultural myths we happily event? No historians and the Irish would happily still be believing they are the lost tribe of Israel. Who would challenge the 'received wisdom' which may have very little that is wise about it?

If you think that history may be worthwhile, you cannot just cut if off at a given date. You cannot say 'here begins history, anything before it did not happen and has no bearing on what has happened since history began'.

I enjoyed my undergrad degree. I knew at the time I would be extremely lucky to be able to use it without retraining. No-one in my year of six has been able to get away without re-training and only one (the archivist) uses his knowledge of latin and paleography on anything like a daily basis. The ability to advance in it in academia was highly restricted given the derisory number of PhD studentships. It is not a discipline awash with money, it is not profligate in its spending. Take away medieval history and in a generation's time, you will see a detrimental effect on the economy.

You cannot say 'here begins history, anything before it did not happen and has no bearing on what has happened since history began'.

Or more worryingly, "*this* is what happened (there can be no other interpretation of these events, and so no need for a historian to understand or interpret those events)".

Re: The view from the mantlepiece

Drift caught.

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