With the Olympics all over our televisions as well as our country there are so many different historic angles I could take. However, I’ve decided to focus on the opening ceremony- not only because it presented the last two hundred years or so of British history with hints of Shakespeare but also because I have just finished a book by Julian Barnes called England, England which touches on many of the topics that arose during the opening ceremony.
For anyone who did not see it I would highly recommend watching the start of it and I will forgive you for skipping over the 200 or so countries entering and the poor Macca performance of Hey Jude (don’t get me wrong I have previously enjoyed him singing that song but this time it fell a bit flat).
The historic aspect of the opening ceremony flicked through rural Britain, the Industrial Revolution, the fight for women’s suffrage, two world wars, Windrush and the development of popular culture over of the last 60 years or so.
The emphasis of the opening ceremony seemed to be on the transformation from rural Britain to industrialisation. However, it made me think- is this what people see us as or was it just an aesthetically pleasing part of our history for Danny Boyle to portray?
For my birthday my mum took me to the Isle of Wight and also bought me Isle of Wight monopoly and the book England, England, which tells of a wealthy and successful businessman who’s last big project is to put everything that makes England ‘England’ onto the Isle of Wight. He decides to do this because he thinks it is a waste of time for tourists to travel around Britain looking at different historic sights that are spread around the county and also believing in the theory that people don’t care about if it is the real thing they see or just as replica as long as they see it. Overwhelmingly the main goal of the project was to make money and in that respect it was highly successful with vast amounts of tourists enjoying reenactments of everything from Robin Hood to Boadicea, but there was a distinct emphasis on rural England. The success of the project on the Isle of Wight also sent mainland England into economic and social despair and transformed it back to a predominantly rural society based on self sufficiency and locality.
For my Thinking For and Against the Victorians module I did last semester I looked at William Cobbett’s books Cottage Economy which was his attempt to encourage people to go back to the ways rural England used to work where everyone was self sufficient. It seemed to be while I was reading it that it was so idealistic and too nostalgic, but do we all really want that? Or is it just a part of England we are most proud of? Or even more just a part of our image that we would most want other countries to see us as?