Friday, October 14, 2005

Which thousand years, exactly?

I am reminded by my friend Mark, from Alderney, that today is the anniversary of his bit of the worlds invasion of our bit of the world, the Battle of Hastings. This brings to mind a little phrase that always seems to crop up when matter European are discussed, that wonderful old phrase about a thousand years of history. An example, from UKIP, here:
...the Prime Minister is signing away nothing less than Britain’s right to self-government. A thousand years of history goes down the drain...

The historian in me is always bothered by this terminology. What thousand years are you referring to, exactly? While you're at it, can you explain how this:
Duke William of Normandy left St.Valery
in Normandy with about 600 ships and 10 to 12,000 men Sept 27th in 1066.

is an invasion whereas this:
It took an immense foreign armada of possibly 600 vessels carrying perhaps 15,000 Dutch and German troops
(Schama, op cit, p.312)
was an entirely internal revolution? Why are reputable websites still perpetuating this "thousand years" myth?

I grew up just outside Brixham, I know how pivotal William III's invasion of this great nation was to the foundation of the Union. Why do we still stick our heads in the sand and proclaim it an entirely internal affair?


Nosemonkey said...

Hurrah! Someone else who appreciates the significance of the Dutch invasion!

But no, I forget - it was a revolution. A Glorious one, no less. And James II abdicated. Or at least vacated the throne. Which had nothing to do with the 15,000 foreign troops which had occupied the capital. And vacated only according to parliament, not to James himself. Which was actually not a parliament, but an illegal convention, only declared a legal parliament by William after he had had the illegal parliament declare him king. And that illegal parliament OBVIOUSLY felt itself under no pressure whatsoever having had to go to the Commons past a load of William's troops which were stationed all round Westminster, within living memory of a bloody and divisive civil war which everyone wanted to avoid a repeat of at all costs. And in any case, William was invited. By seven people, none of whom had any official position within the government, and several of whom were commoners with no real position in society. But shhhh! It wasn't an invasion - honest!

(By the by, I grew up just by Pevensey, so local pride should dictate that I buy all the Norman Conquest myths - bollocks to that, I say...)

MatGB said...

Of course it was an invasion. One of my rules of thumb for selecting a history book (I buy them regularly) is if it refers to 1688 check the term used. IIRC, even "the little book of patriotism" calls it an invasion these days.

Possibly the best thing to have ever happened to the country, but denying what it actually was is simply churlish, and creates an island nation myopia divorced from the rest of the continent.

PaulJ said...

What is it, three times we've been 'invaded' since 1066? Can't remember what the other two are, but I know the whole 'thousand years' thing is a load of nonsense.

Nosemonkey said...

paul - depends on whether you mean successfully or not. 1688 was the only other fully successful one.

There was also - off the top of my head - Matilda in 1139 (she was rightful heir of Henry I, but had to invade with a French army to gain the throne, and was later booted out before she could be formally crowned) and the country's been invaded countless times - most often by the Scots, but there have been a couple of other landings by umpteen other nationalities as well (albeit usually as part of the army of disgruntled Brits who felt they had a claim to the throne - Duke of Monmouth, Bonnie Prince Charlie etc.)