Thursday, June 14, 2007

In Search of History

In three and a half months I'm moving to one of the, for lack of any better word, coolest countries in the entire world, with many castles, clouds, and centuries of closely packed history. Unfortunately, my high school European History Class didn't start until the Reformation, on the theory I suppose that Medieval European history had no bearing on later centuries. Avram thinks it's because we're Protestant in America, and the Middle Ages are too Catholic. Regardless, what I know about the British Royalty could fit comfortably in the next sentence. William the Conqueror came in 1066, killed all the Saxons except for Robinhood, who plagued John Lackland, but then Richard the Lionheart saved him, but couldn't save his own line because he only like little boys (ask Avram), so then Henry the Eighth took over, probably fathered Elizabeth (ask Avram about this theory as well), who promptly stuck her relative Mary, Queen of Scots in a tower because she killed protestants, but Mary got the last laugh because Elizabeth had no children, being the Virgin Queen, and so put Mary's son James on the throne, who had our version of the Bible translated.

And thus we have illustrated the main point of this post, which is that I desperately need to learn some British history before I convince all the English I meet that Americans are all ignoramuses.

In fact, anything I can do to help my knowledge of England would be beneficial, and so I read a book entitled Looking For Class by Bruce Feiler, about his experience going to Cambridge for a year in the early Nineties. I must say, I was rather disappointed by the book, because it was a tour through Babylon. Not that I'm saying that Babylon doesn't exist in Cambridge, but more that I believe there were uplifting, edifying experiences occurring at that time, and that the author seems to have searched out the exact opposite; sex, excessive alcohol, sex, more alcohol. Also, the tone was quite condescending. And he never went "walking," Britain's national pastime, until the last two pages of the book. I would say that I'm concerned about the youth of the day, except the author is now 42. Granted, there is some useful information in there, like what to avoid at Oxford (bars, any parties put on by students).

After having read this book, I've decided I should write a book of memoirs about my year in England; of course, I wouldn't write it for publishing, because I'm much too religious for general America, and also I'm not a very polished writer. But I figure any one's experiences could be potentially better than his experiences, so I've an easy task to fill. Also, I want to read books about England, either historical or cultural, so if anyone has any they would like to recommend, please do so.


  1. You do know quite a bit about British history for being an American, even if it is colored by Avram's apparent familiarity with the sexual deviancy of the English nobility (just kidding).

    As for memoir about England to read before you go, I would recommend Bill Bryson. Although I haven't read his Notes from a Small Country , I did read his one on Australia which was a great read and pg rated.

    As for your memoir, you should definitely write and post about your experiences - I already can't wait to read them.

    I think I should put you guys in touch with a friend of mine who's at Oxford right now and loves aspects of it, but was/is shocked by the Babylonian aspects being more rampant than he expected.

  2. I too want you to write your memoirs but I suspect they will read an awfully lot like a mother staying home to care for a small child who sometimes and not very often gets to see or do something English.

  3. The secret about a good memoir, mom, is to write about the exciting/funny/insightful situations and experiences, and leave a graceful veil of silence over the mundane and boring. Besides, life doesn't always need to be exciting to be interesting; after all, you were falling over laughing about my seafood experience, and really it wasn't that odd of a dinner too many.

  4. The best English memoirs are the James Herriot books, which you would totally love if you're not in love with them already. They're not much use as tour guide books, but they're about the funniest, sweetest volumes I've ever had the privilege of reading. For history, pick up a good mass-market biography of Henry VIII (not that I'm biased toward the Tudors or anything . . .) and settle down to enjoy the political intrigue, sexual scandals, and general religious craziness that made Tudor England so darn fun.

  5. I had forgotten about James Herriot. I do love his books. It's enough to make me want to be a vet, excepting that I don't like animals, have never farmed, don't like blood, pain (in others), or birthing things. Other than that, though, and I'm ready. I'll read about King Henry VII. Thanks RoseE. Just a note; I can never reach your comment page, so although I read ever blog, and I check it faithfully, it looks like I don't. You should email me (my email's in my profile, and then I'll have your email address, and I'll send my comments there).

  6. There's always the Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples if you're looking for a classic text on British history (albeit political/military history).

  7. O, Thora. I have a new blog! And Samuel says he will make one soon, too. As of this moment my latest post is made up of pictures of our apartment. Your blog is really entertaining...I laughed out loud at the description of the seafood...I've bookmarked your blog and will be reading it regularly.