During the 1960s there started a wave of publishing series of magazines in weekly instalments devoted to one specialised subject. One of the very first was 'The History of the English Speaking Peoples', taking as its template and title the 112 chapters of the multi-volume work by Winston Churchill. (Incidentally, many people are not aware that Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
, though rather in recognition of his previous writings rather than for this breath-takingly ambitious and admirable work.)
I had collected all 112 editions which cover the immense span of history between Julius Caesar's Roman invasions of these islands (in 55 B.C.E. and the following year) right up to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
Just a few days ago these magazines of mine saw the light of day again for the first time since I parcelled them up in Oxford prior to my emigrating to Germany in 1988. My eyes moistened when seeing them once more. There has been so much water under the bridge for me in the intervening years - status and financial comfort and security lost, but most poignantly, the loss of very nearly every one of the few friends I had, both in England and other parts of Europe..
I tried to keep up with reading the magazines as they were first published one by one, but eventually fell behind. Then in the late 70s I gave it another go, this time getting up to the 17th century and the English Civil Wars, but then had to put the project aside.
Now, inspired by the re-broadcast on one of the BBC's digital radio channels, entitled 'This Scepter'd Isle' in bite-sized 15 mins instalments, again based on the same chapters by Winston Churchill, with readings not only from his work but also from other historical sources relating to the period, I'm giving the challenge another shot - which could well be my final chance.
The magazines also fill in those areas where Churchill is inadequate, weak or he just ignores, with articles by other historians. For example here on the left is the start of an article on Britain's pre-Roman inhabitants, showing a giant figure chalked into an English hillside, which is still renowned as a favourite tourist site, though I can't think why, of an early warrior brandishing his big stick. (If you're not familiar with this, the 'Cerne Abbis Giant', look closely!.
Each magazine is a veritable treasure-trove of information and reading them sits well with my lifelong unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I plan to read one mag (with all
its articles) per week Really looking forward to this!
Just as a post-script, at secondary school the history we were taught covered the period from the ascent of the Tudor Dynasty (from Henry VII in 1485) up to the Unification of Germany in 1870. Though we learned a lot about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, there was precious little said about the American War of Independence, which seems rather curious now. Also, given the range of dates, there was, of course, no coverage of either of the two world wars. (I believe that for some time now all children are taught at least something about World War 2). When I was at school, the 1939-45 conflict was still raw in the minds of many families and all of my teachers would have lived through it. Perhaps the dust hadn't quite settled enough.