By Peter Fowler
Fowler assesses the impression of our background within the final decade of the twentieth century, and, with quite a lot of examples, judges the implications of the expanding pressures of the history undefined, supplying feedback for liable improvement.
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Additional resources for The Past in Contemporary Society (The Heritage Care Preservation Management)
It will not, however, be the William and Mary house which led the Trust to acquire it for the nation in the first place; though it will be a magnificent monument to late twentieth-century skill and heritage reconstruction. Uppark makes a most interesting case. For a century now, reconstruction has been eschewed by the official state agencies in Britain in their dealings with monuments on land. As a result we now have many splendid ruins—as Uppark could alternatively have been— visually impressive as they stand but often difficult to comprehend in their three-dimensional jumble of different building phases and changing uses.
This is very easy to do, especially if one is not consciously writing history in the sense of working towards some understanding of the original evidence but using ‘history’ towards some other end. In this case, the aim is a personalised account of ‘the perfect weekend retreat…above all, unforgettable’. Let’s remember the address and forget the history; perhaps the dubiousness of the latter, in some sort of ‘real’ sense, does not matter all that much. As an academic, however, I would argue that it does matter.
It is probably kinder to regard such goings-on as illustrative of the stimulus of the past rather than decry them as the prostitution of history itself. The only danger is that participants and watchers dupe themselves into thinking that what they are doing is history. All this activity, far from illuminating the past, is actually saying something profound and poignant about the present. A radio programme featuring the participants at ‘Tudor’ Kentwell (BBC Radio 4, 29 December) illustrated pathos and the very necessary therapy behind the fun and pretence.