Saturday, 4 August 2012

Michael Wood's version of "Victorian England"

I watched Michael Wood's version of the history of the British people last night on TV which was about "The Industrial Revolution". I was struck how astonishingly similar it was to the past portrayed by "The Great Olympic Opening".

It focused on how Marx and Engles studied the downtrodden classes in the grimy streets of Manchester dwarfed by filthy smoke stacks, until "local government" - but actually people, in the form of Manchester City Fathers - did something about it.

Nowhere in Wood's vision of the past did he mention the influence of active and public-spirited Christianity motivating either the improving efforts of these City fathers, which helped prevented this country ruining itself, or the trade union movement.

The fact is that deeply serious-minded, engaged Christianity (of a quality we have never encountered) pervaded all classes in Victorian England. However, this hard fact is neatly airbrushed out of all post-modern BBC and Open University viewpoints.

The greatest Victorian reformer was The Earl of Shaftesbury who was a Conservative Peer and an Evangelical Christian. His reforming fingerprints were everywhere in Victorian England. Shaftesbury  was:

....the individual most involved in a sequence of different social reforms was the evangelical Tory philanthropist Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885), who fought indomitably for the protection of children in factories and mines, and later chimney sweeps, for public health legislation and for the proper treatment of what were then called 'lunatics'. (He had) .....been accepted as a Parliamentary leader by a popular movement in the North of England actively engaged until an Act acceptable to them was passed in 1847. Not all the movements had a working-class base, as Chartism did. The Health of Towns Association, for example, founded in 1839, had substantial middle-class support.

The famous statue of "Eros" (Love) in central London was set up to Lord Shaftesbury. Eros is not, as many people today might automatically suppose, about license and nudity. I sense that if some postmoderns knew this, they might say: "If I feel Eros is a statue is about sex and free love, then it is".....

This is how facts and history now seem to be widely treated. I ask myself whether a society consciously being deceived and also self-deceiving, is sufficiently prepared for its post-industrial future?

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