Tag Archives: New York Times


So, the game’s afoot today (quote – Will Shakespeare not Sherlock Holmes), The London Olympics, and not remotely a chance to plug the sporting thriller The Godhead Game, with its kidnapped athletes,Click here. But, as the Torch was held high at the modern Globe in Southwark, a wonderful little article about politics, history and the show of it all, London Struts on The World Stage, appeared in the New York Times by Sergie Lobanov-Rostovsky, Click here, which proves America (not Abrams) has some culture and sense of it all.

This blog has been much caught between London and New York, ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds, but we make the point in Shakespeare’s Brother, as American academics like James Shapiro, Bloom and Greenblat hold the field and rekindle that interest in Southwark and the time, that perhaps they only need Shakespeare to really interpret it all, especially out of nasty Reformation struggles. Though, if ‘The American Dream’ was, in the founding of the Virginia Lottery, (taken up by all thirteen colonies), after 1612, dreamt up by tempestuous Elizabthans not Arthur Miller, perhaps America, bankers, politicians, the City of London and the entire world are really stuck in the past, 400 hundred years ago. John Harvard came from Southwark too, though we don’t think much of the signature in the Christening record. But Good God, did Mitt Romney really say he could understand the spirit of the Olympics better than Obama because he’s an Anglo-Saxon?! Set Othello’s wrath on him, or, Doh, invite him to the Olympian, Greek foundations of the Games. “Oh brave New World, that hath such people in it!”

But guff to that, for now, and good luck to all those Olympian players and team GB.


Leave a comment

Filed under America and the UK, Culture, Education, London


I’m a bit worried that anything I say about the US might be tinged with events in New York three years ago! However, looking into the subject of ‘Spatial Humanities’ recently and a NY Times article on Gettysburg, The Salem Witch Hunts and the modelling of events, temporally and spatially, does remind me of the tours I did in American schools. It worried me that in many schools there History is not taught on its own, but as a ‘Social Science’.

It rather begs the question of what History is ‘for’. I realise that in the UK there has always been a cultural split between the ‘geeky’ scientists and the ‘poetic’ Historians. I actually love science as much as history, and on one level Spatial Humanities is attempting to unite all disciplines, and especially the ‘two languages’ we carry in the world, that I’ve talked about elsewhere. The problem for me is that somehow history must be an art, not a science at all, so be about listening to the mind and sensibilities of historians talking about the past, for no other purpose than deepening the human dialogue and creating cultural depth.

So to teach History instead as Social Science presupposes some kind of ‘Telos’, some unfolding purpose, just as the Marxist Historians argued for, or much like some of the voices that come out of Right Wing America, arguing that the US is the freest and greatest Nation ever, or that we must somehow all stop dead at the 11 O’clock school bell and swear allegiance to the flag. To us that is a kind of cultural brainwashing, and you might speak of the facts that came up last night on a repeat of the Quiz show QI, saying that America locks up one in a hundred of its citizens, on the ‘3 Strikes and You’re Out’ model, more than any Nation on eath, ever. The figures for young blacks in prison now are even more frightening. In one sense though, History, and the study of cultures, should have no obvious purpose at all, but like literature, be a chance to explore greater truths across time, and imaginatively examine, for good and bad, the entire human condition.

Since I clearly can’t resist a bit of New Yorker bashing, the depth of sensibility and awareness I met from my own partner, and then at my own American publisher too, was astoundingly limited. Almost instantly, and from my own editor of ten years, it became about ‘sides’, ‘You’ and ‘Us’, like re-fighting the Alamo when I was supposed to be in partnership with a firm, to create. A very onesided partnership because of all the money they generate elsewhere, and when another very personal partnership had been so harmed along side it. Some people call it ‘Ego Consciousness’, brilliant at arguing for individual ‘rights’, and snap decisions, or being shocked by something out of the mould, but terrible at seeing a bigger and truly human picture, warts and all. Terrible when you find that at the heart of a prominent publisher.

There are many exciting things about Spatial Humanities, which educationally is about the vivid engagement of the student in a world that is increasingly defined by technology, and this place you are looking at, the Cyberverse. Yet there is also the danger of turning all human history into some glorified Computer Game, and we all know the dangers and addictions of that. Actually, anything that takes us further away from the human, so contained in great history and great literature, is fraught with dangers. Keep to the human. DCD

Leave a comment

Filed under America and the UK, Culture, Education, New York