Don’t erase the past
I have an objection to raise against Michael Wood’s position on historical statues, as expounded in his article in the November issue ( Comment). The erasure of unpleasant aspects of the past in order to conform with the spirit of our own times is the core of, and the first step towards, totalitarianism. Those who control the past have the potential to control the future. Commemorating those who fought for civil liberties and social justice is the preservation of the past. Removing those monuments dedicated to their adversaries is an attempt at a cultural revolution.
Let Rhodes, Cromwell and the Lionheart stand in full view of the public – they stand in the dock of history’s courtroom, present for the jury of the curious and the engaged to deliver a verdict. Let the reactionary, white supremacist wingnuts keep their statues of Robert E Lee – a ‘ heritage’ and ‘culture’ of slavery, bigotry and racial oppression only serves to emphasise the weakness and stupidity behind their case. Besides, if we wished to fully expunge the taint of slavery, we would have to remove statues of Washington and Jefferson as well.
An intelligent, civilised society does not remove its demons from public view; it does not consign its past to the oblivion of obscurity; it does not engender a future where the impulses which led to such monuments being raised in the first place are repressed, driven underground, and left to multiply until they strike back. Talia Sear, Northamptonshire
Memories of Attlee
With reference to the letter suggestings that “the convinced socialist t” Clement Attlee has a right to o be regarded as one of our greate est peacetime prime ministers ( Letters, November), may I (as a nonagenarian) make my own comments as one who first welcomed his government, but who experienced its realities. He sincerely believed that government-owned industries were efficient and operated to the benefit of a country. This was before every socialist economy collapsed, or became moribund, to disprove the belief. He also believed in the beneficent powers of the trade unions which, because of the Marxist beliefs of their leaders, would lead to the virtual destruction of their industries.
I certainly owe a great deal to the National Health Service, perhaps one great achievement of Attlee’s government, although I am not in a position to judge if it is based on the most efficient system. One thing I do admire Attlee for is his belief, in spite of his socialist views, in our parliamentary system of democratic government. Donald Tomkinson, Crewe
Marley vs The Bard
Levi Roots’ comparison of Bob Marley’s lifestyle with William Shakespeare’s is bizarre ( My History Hero, October). Marley’s “few children” were 13, from nine different mothers. Although Shakespeare’s wife was with child when they married, and there were some rumours of him having an affair at one point, he was generally a fairly conventional husband, father and grandfather.
Is Levi Roots trying to claim that Marley is as influential a figure as Shakespeare? Surely not. A great singersongwriter certainly, but a poor lifestyle role model – a good example of needing to separate the art from the artist. Jim Reddy, Northenden
Historical Historica abuse in theatre
The alleegations against Harvey Weinstein should come as no surpprise to those interested in thee history of the theatre. In Shhakespeare’s day, boy actorsa were routinely abuseda by their masters anda rich patrons. When womenw were allowed on the EnglishE stage in the 1660s, thhey were at once abused in theeir turn, though the pracctice was excused on the groundds that most actresses were
considered to be whores anyway. And Pepys and his wealthy friends would pay extra at performances to go backstage to watch the women change their costumes.
The ‘casting couch’ has been present both as a joke and reality throughout the history of performance. Come forward to the 1960s and 70s when full nudity was eventually allowed on stage, and very soon Actors’ Equity had to include a clause in standard contracts that, as nudity in performance was classed as ‘costume’, performers (mostly women, of course) could not be required to strip off until the dress rehearsal. The real surprise is that it seems to be only now that rich old men in powerful positions are being publicly challenged over their oppressive behaviour. Noel Thorpe-Tracey, Winchester
Richard brought stability
The article by Chris Skidmore ( Did Fear Drive Richard to the Throne?, November) was very plausible, but seems to miss one aspect of what is now called realpolitik.
With the accession of Edward IV to the throne, as a strong king there must have been considerable relief that the long, drawn-out and expensive Wars of the Roses were finally over. Then, with the sudden and unexpected early death of Edward IV, leaving only two young male heirs who had probably been indoctrinated by the Woodvilles, there was every likelihood of a resumption of the war, with this round being between Richard and the Woodvilles. Richard seems to have gradually woken up to this possibility and eventually decided that the only option left open to him was to take the throne and forestall concerted Woodville action.
Whatever the tangled skein of details and political conniving that Richard had to resort to in trying to legalise his claim, his potential subjects may have tacitly accepted that a militarily experienced and vigorous king was the best way to avoid further warfare. James Wells MRINA, Essex
A statue of Confederat te president Jefferson Dav vis at the University of Te exas being moved in n 2015
William Hogarth’s The Beggar’s Opera (1732). The sexual abuse of theatre performers dates back centuries, points out reader Noel Thorpe-Tracey