Wondering about British perspective on American Revolution

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Wondering about British perspective on American Revolution

Postby lotos » Fri 15.07.2016, 01:57

So... I'm a monster Hamilton fan. I was lucky enough to see the Original Broadway Cast last month, just before they won all the Tonys and everyone jumped ship. I'm also a history buff, specifically US Presidents, so this was a homerun for me. My kids sing the soundtrack nonstop. Anyway, suffice it to say I think about the American Revolutionary war quite a bit lately. And it just occurred to me that I've got a direct line to lots of the Queen's subjects right here!

What did you guys learn about this war in school? How was it taught, and what was the war called? I'd love to know the other side's perspective on the happenings round about 1776.

Hope you find this interesting to discuss, I'm really curious. Thanks.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Artaban » Fri 15.07.2016, 09:10

Well the short answer I was schooled in the 70's in a grammar school in Bristol and we were taught nothing at all about the American Revolution. The history taught in schools in England tends to focus on things we won not things we lost. My daughter, now 19, also wasn't taught anything about it either. Any history I have learnt I taught myself and my speciality is in the other direction; the Middle East. Even from when I was very small my mother always said keep an eye on the Middle East its where the next world war will start and it'll be worse than all the others. There are times when you hope your mother won't be right.
Well thats cast rather a gloom over the day.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby dapinky » Fri 15.07.2016, 10:16

Randy,

Like Andy, i was schooled in the 70's (in Birmingham), and the American War of Independance/Revolution wasn't on the sylabus.

All I was taught was that Columbus discovered America, and from Saturday morning TV I ascertained that cowboys shot all of the indians (Native Americans) who were a rebellious lot!

During adulthood, I learned that history always gets written by the victor, and no doubt has a certain 'spin' on it.

I learned most of my (limited) knowledge on this subject from visits to the USA (notably New England / Eastern Canada in 1993), which included Philladelphia and Washington DC - undoubtably we got the 'sanitised tourist' version of events, also the bit about Quebec.....

But as said, all from the perspective of Uncle Sam.........

(Incidentally, I have a penchant for visiting SE Asia, and have spent quite a while in Vietnam, visiting the sights as well as seeing the 'proper' country. Over there the war you call 'Vietnam', is known as the 'American War' [unsurprisingly], and the many monuments, museums etc tell a far different story of that period than what we see on Hollywood film/Television).
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Steve A » Fri 15.07.2016, 16:13

lotos wrote:So... I'm a monster Hamilton fan. I was lucky enough to see the Original Broadway Cast last month, just before they won all the Tonys and everyone jumped ship. I'm also a history buff, specifically US Presidents, so this was a homerun for me. My kids sing the soundtrack nonstop. Anyway, suffice it to say I think about the American Revolutionary war quite a bit lately. And it just occurred to me that I've got a direct line to lots of the Queen's subjects right here!

What did you guys learn about this war in school? How was it taught, and what was the war called? I'd love to know the other side's perspective on the happenings round about 1776.

Hope you find this interesting to discuss, I'm really curious. Thanks.


Wasn't it just the Americans saying they no longer want to be apart of Europe :bonk:
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby GeoffSmith » Fri 15.07.2016, 17:23

Brexit the prequel?

Grammar school in Newcastle upon Tyne and a similar story but with added local interest like the Romans Trumping the Scots and various skirmishes in the Borders. Probably the closest we came to US history was General Wolf's heroic exploits against the French in the 51st State.

From what I could gather, the main aim of history in the 60s was to teach the dates of as many battles as possible. Positively inspiring it was.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby lotos » Fri 15.07.2016, 18:13

Wow, I did not expect this response. Really isn't taught? As in, many Brits grow up not knowing that the US was originally a collection of European colonies, and that we fought a massive war (at huge financial expense to both Britain and France) to become independent? That's crazy to me, because (and I know it's my country so of course it's taught extensively) it's one of those things that's taught every year from preschool (age 3-4) through, well, college (age 18+). And celebrated loudly every year in July. And all of our touristy sites on the entire east coast do nothing but talk about the war and it's battles (well they talk about our Civil War heaps, too). Teaching and learning about the Revolutionary War (as we call it) is an American obsession, it's infiltrated every facet of our country to it's core. Every election or law or judicial decision, the Founding Fathers and the Constitution are talked about endlessly. What happened in 1776 (or more accurately, the mythology of it all) pretty much consumes all of America today. Our money is printed with the faces of those men. Their words are written on every public building. Their names are given to roads, schools, cities. That our greatest ally today, and our foe in that war, doesn't really learn about it, is mind-blowing. We really are a completely egocentric xenophobic country, Jesus. To us, Europe was this fancy place that existed in the long long ago time, and now is a place that isn't as free as us (because you know, we're the land of the free), and a place to go visit for a week and post the pics on Facebook. We barely learn about any of the Kings and wars in Europe, in the past or in the recent history. And as far as South America or Africa or Asia goes, we learn virtually nothing. A little about Aztecs/Mayan/Inca, a little about Ghengis Khan, a little about Sputnik, etc. But it's all US History that's drilled into our skulls for the better part of 20 years. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

If you couldn't tell, I'm not much for nationalism.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Rambo » Fri 15.07.2016, 18:43

Artaban wrote:Well the short answer I was schooled in the 70's in a grammar school in Bristol and we were taught nothing at all about the American Revolution. The history taught in schools in England tends to focus on things we won not things we lost.


Same for me too.

Like Andy, Dave and Geoffos I spent my formative years at a grammar school in the early '70's. We were taught absolutely zilch about American history apart from the bit about Christopher Columbus, the great explorer. We were taught a bit about America in geography but only really that North America sat above South America.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby dapinky » Fri 15.07.2016, 19:08

Without trying to sound patronising or disparaging in any way, perhaps the issue with all this is the lack of history that the (modern country) of USA actually has availlable to the teachers.
As your country has less age than my house it is hard to consider the facts taught - we "have" to cover over 2000 years of happenings in 'our' land (and we also get taught about the pre-historic homo-sapiens and their lives).

To our educators, the American Revolution was just one of many times when Great Britain lost a bit of land a long way away from home, and at the time it happened, no-one thought that the Americas (as it was known to the British at that time), was ever really more than an oportunity for Empirical expansion or getting rid of those people we didn't want/need at home. Obviously, no-one could foresee the country that it has now become, otherwise perhaps we would have fought harder for it (or maybe just given it up when asked!).

As the Romans, Vikings, Angles, Huns etc had no impact on your country, I suppose it doesn't get taught, in the same way that we learn nothing about the Mongols/Chinese etc who have even more history, but not relevant to European culture.

As the Chinese calendar goes back thousands of years before ours, they probably have even more schooling in history......

.....it is unfortunate that History taught in English schools tends to follow quite a narrow path,(as seemingly does yours, albeit a different narrow path) and it is only in adulthood that people actually start to appreciate the rest of the world.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Rambo » Fri 15.07.2016, 19:18

Last time I spoke to an American, on a ski lift above Lake Tahoe, he thought that England was the capital city of Europe and that it had been discovered only a couple of hundred years ago.

I decided that European history and geography wasn't part of the American curriculum. I quickly changed the subject to cars :lol:
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Simon_P » Fri 15.07.2016, 19:44

Also at school in the 70s and 80s

Learnt almost nothing about American history. Columns, founding fathers, Boston tea party, JFK.

But then in terms of British history it probably would only warrant a page or two, in small chapter on the Americas. In a very thick book on the Empire. Sorry to say it really isn't that important.

The USA has had no real significance globally until recently and wouldn't have if the Germans hadn't played up. At the beginning of the first world war the USA owed Britain lots of money by the end of the second world war the tables were turned....now we are all broke!

Sorry but US war of independence really doesn't have much significance which is why we all wonder why you all make so much fuss. I mean that as a polite answer to your question!
Contrast to Roman occupation of Europe, the French revolution, the Russian revolution, independence in India...... And it just doesn't feature
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Saltire » Fri 15.07.2016, 20:23

I was at a single-sex boys boarding school in the UK between 1965 and 1972.

To answer the question, I think it's important to understand how education works in this country. You study for two sets of nationwide exams: GCSE at age 16, and A levels, at age 18. You don't go to university or college until after A levels, unless you're doing a more practical course, which you might start at 16. Everyone does GCSE.

GCSE is a set of anything up to 10-12 subject-based exams: English, Maths and so on. You typically spend 2-3 hours a week on each subject area. The history I was taught at that level was almost exclusively English history, and consisted largely of dates when monarchs reigned, and important battles. We also did a bit of "famous British explorers sail round the world and make the natives see sense". We were taught no American history at all.

At A level, you study 2-4 subjects in greater depth, and, in my time, these were all arts or all science, never mixed. So, after the age of 16, I did no maths or science at all; I studied English, French and History for A level. We studied one specific period of English history (we did the Tudors (1485-1603)), together with one or two European history specialisms (we did the Holy Roman Empire and the union of crowns in Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella). Esoteric, huh?

Curiously, the only tuition I had on American history was in a weekly two-hour lesson between ages 16-18 called "Liberal Studies", whose purpose was to get the heathen scientists thinking about the finer things in life, and the arty-farty brigade to understand at least something of why engines go suck-squeeze-bang-blow every so often. Here we did quite a bit on the American Civil War (1861-65), along the lines of "typical Americans, give them their independence and they end up fighting each other soon afterwards". In that context, the 1776 shenanigans were referred to as the "War of American Independence". In true British style, it was viewed very much as one might discuss a difficult teenager with whom one was trying to make the best of a bad job and hoping he would grow out of it in time . . .

Apologies if any of this comes across as dismissive or offensive to any other nation, but that's very much the way it was taught. Looking back, it's remarkable how times have changed.

Slightly off the topic, I was at a drinks reception once in an English stately home, where the house owner was talking to a loud and persistent New Yorker. The American gentleman remarked that his country had a long and distinguished history compared with the "little ol' UK", ever since 1776, to which our host responded "Ah, 1776. Exactly two hundred years after my family built this house".
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Artaban » Fri 15.07.2016, 20:38

Reminds me of Eddie Izzards "Dressed to Kill" tour in America. Some great stuff in the show but I'm always reminded of how he introduces himself. "I'm from England where the history comes from"
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Tyger » Sat 16.07.2016, 03:33

Lotos, what part of the US are you from? My experience as to the history I learned in school was quite different to yours.
I will say that I was a bit surprised when I saw, in the officers' billets at Woolwich a couple of years ago, a full-length portrait of George Washington amongst the various british generals. There is also a statue of him overlooking Trafalgar Square, incidentally.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Saltire » Sat 16.07.2016, 07:12

Tyger wrote:Saltire, was your school in Wiltshire or Gloucestershire by chance?

No, we only moved down here four or five years ago. One side of my family came from northern Scotland, and the other half from (West) Sussex. I went to school in south London.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Tyger » Sun 17.07.2016, 00:25

Oh okay. My son spent four years at a school in Gloucestershire, so I was curious. He's back in the states for university though. I definitely understand about GCSEs and A-levels now, haha.

Saltire wrote:
Tyger wrote:Saltire, was your school in Wiltshire or Gloucestershire by chance?

No, we only moved down here four or five years ago. One side of my family came from northern Scotland, and the other half from (West) Sussex. I went to school in south London.
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Saltire » Sun 17.07.2016, 07:53

Tyger wrote:Oh okay. My son spent four years at a school in Gloucestershire, so I was curious. He's back in the states for university though. I definitely understand about GCSEs and A-levels now, haha.


Whereabouts? We have friends who teach at both Westonbirt and Wycliffe, which are close by.

And (back to the original thread) what does he say about his UK lessons on the American War of Independence / Revolutionary War?
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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby DaveT » Sun 17.07.2016, 10:30

What revolution?

I just learned about the German kings coming to England cos we didn't have one of our own. They liked the place so much they stayed and are still here FFS!!!
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Hardly a revolution when one side couldn't really be bothered to fight with much more than a lace handkerchief flicked across the face, Unlike his father and grandfather who were up for a fracas even if they lost.

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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby muley » Sun 17.07.2016, 11:03

Never got mentioned at Grammar School in the 60s.

We did Henry VIII and dissolution of the monasteries. Mostly.



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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Rambo » Sun 17.07.2016, 16:41

muley wrote:Never got mentioned at Grammar School in the 60s.

We did Henry VIII and dissolution of the monasteries. Mostly.



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Re: Wondering about British perspective on American Revoluti

Postby Tyger » Sun 17.07.2016, 17:40

Saltire wrote:
Tyger wrote:Oh okay. My son spent four years at a school in Gloucestershire, so I was curious. He's back in the states for university though. I definitely understand about GCSEs and A-levels now, haha.


Whereabouts? We have friends who teach at both Westonbirt and Wycliffe, which are close by.

And (back to the original thread) what does he say about his UK lessons on the American War of Independence / Revolutionary War?


Cheltenham. He did sciences at A-level, so no history since GCSE. I'll have to ask him next time I see him. I seem to remember they spent a lot of time on WWI. There are a lot of names from that one on the walls leading into the chapel.
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