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Larry the Leit

French history, or at least history teaching in France

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Today whilst touring with my band, I got into conversation with an intelligent French tour support worker. He's got a fairly technical role, and speaks five languages fluently and I'd guess is 43-44.

I asked him about the area in Northern France where three of my ancestors fell during the First World War hoping for a few tips on where to go and what to see when I eventually visit.

Several times he interrupted me to correct me and suggest it was the Second World War, and it was only when I sat him down and made him trawl through the casualty statistics on Wikipedia that he accepted that Britain had been involved, even then he asked for confirmation of which side Britain fought for!!

We then had a long conversation about war memorials in British villages, PALS, the Somme, Haig, about the impact on my family where 3 out of 4 brothers died within weeks etc etc.

I remain stunned that he had no idea about the role that the British, the Irish, the Anzacs etc played in what is a catastrophic conflict that is only just out of living memory. He was equally as stunned.

What the hell do they teach them in French schools?

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Works both ways

How many people in the uk have heard if verdun?

We regularly hear about the french being 'surrender monkeys' yet how many have heard of the free french?

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Well I have, and I dropped history at 13.

I do know that France was involved in the first world though Frank.

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Well I have, and I dropped history at 13.

I do know that France was involved in the first world though Frank.

Well a lot if it was fought in France and there are visible signs of the uk's involvement in France, but by no means everywhere

I'm interested in history and have read a lot about all sorts of aspects of it

But a lot of people aren't and what children are taught in schools is quite limited

It does seem odd I agree but it doesn't surprise me

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I'll get back on this once I have spoken to my French mate in Vichy who has put his two kids through the French system.

If anyone gets the chance to go to Verdun, take it. If you don't cry, you are inhuman.

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I'll get back on this once I have spoken to my French mate in Vichy who has put his two kids through the French system.

If anyone gets the chance to go to Verdun, take it. If you don't cry, you are inhuman.

I'm not generally an emotional person but WWI has always resonated with me.

I'll be interested in your mate's feedback. My contact grew up near Albi.

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Hmm, I gave up history at 13 (the teacher refused to let me take the subject), but I do remember a portion of David Niven's semi-reliable autobiography when he is returning to England through France as WWII was starting. He overhears the French passengers in his train grumbling that the English won't help them, "just like last time".

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I am learning French at the moment and my teacher told me that her grandmother used to hide Jews in the basement of the bakery to help them escape through the occupation. She had a very close call when someone who had heard noises grassed them up to the police and therefore the Germans. Fortunately someone overheard this and tipped them off so they could move the people otherwise the family would have been history. The Germans found some bits of bread and biscuit in the cellar so they were always under scrutiny after that.

The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?

I think WW1 is a key part of our history in many respects in terms of its impact and how it changed Europe - your could argue that WW2 in Europe was simply an extension of the issues never really resolved at the end of WW1.

Arguing with the Germans, French, Italians and so on in a parliament, albeit not an ideal one, is a darn sight better than fighting them in a mudbath for four years, or turning each others' cities into fireballs. Young people need to understand that, rather than just hearing how awful the EU is.

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I am learning French at the moment and my teacher told me that her grandmother used to hide Jews in the basement of the bakery to help them escape through the occupation. She had a very close call when someone who had heard noises grassed them up to the police and therefore the Germans. Fortunately someone overheard this and tipped them off so they could move the people otherwise the family would have been history. The Germans found some bits of bread and biscuit in the cellar so they were always under scrutiny after that.

The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?

I think WW1 is a key part of our history in many respects in terms of its impact and how it changed Europe - your could argue that WW2 in Europe was simply an extension of the issues never really resolved at the end of WW1.

Arguing with the Germans, French, Italians and so on in a parliament, albeit not an ideal one, is a darn sight better than fighting them in a mudbath for four years, or turning each others' cities into fireballs. Young people need to understand that, rather than just hearing how awful the EU is.

Yes

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The surrender monkeys tag was coined at the time when French troops were serving alongside US troops in Afghanistan and the the person who coined the term was not.

 

Regarding misteaching, I think Britain is pretty good at this.  Certainly, many in the USA were surprised that the UK version of the American War of Independence was close to their own.  That said, there were amused that we had not been taught about how the USA comfortably defended itself against Britain in 1812.

 

In 1812, the USA tried to invade Canada and got nowhere.  Post-Napoleon, the British joined the Canadians and burnt down the Whitehouse.  The American forces won their first major battle at New Orleans, by which point the treaty had already been signed.  When put to them like this, some would wonder if they might have been taught a misleading version of history.

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But for my granddad teaching me about the Eastern European fronts and the Japan/China part of World War 2 I'm not sure I'd have learned much as a youngster about these areas.  Certainly going by what we were taught at school you'd have thought that the furthest east the war went was Poland and even then that was a fuzzy thing marked as the "eastern front" that just allowed us to come into the war to defend them.  If you look at how many civilians died in the Soviet Union, China, Poland, Indonesia and Yugoslavia during that time then you'd think that the battle for western and central Europe was just a minor tiff in comparison.

 

We certainly didn't get taught things like Poland losing over 16% of its population during the war with a vastly disproportionate number of them being Jewish.  The horror stories my granddad told me were quite difficult to validate until I got older and was able to learn from wider sources.

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Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.

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Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.

 

I was channel flicking a couple of nights ago and came across a documentary about this. It was compelling viewing and certainly helped fill in some serious gaps in my knowledge.

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History's wasted on kids. The vast majority of us are just not interested in the past when we're young.

 

I was bored by my school lessons as I had so few reference points*. Now Im fascinated, and would gladly pay good money to have the same teachers give me the same classes I was bored by.

 

*eg

 

Teacher: "The Romans invaded Britain in 55BC".

 

Me (to myself): "The Romans?? Flook me, one city conquered our whole country? Why did they choose us? That's a bit random. What about Milan and Juventus, where did they conquer? We must have been c rap. Etc."

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History's wasted on kids. The vast majority of us are just not interested in the past when we're young.

 

I was bored by my school lessons as I had so few reference points*. Now Im fascinated, and would gladly pay good money to have the same teachers give me the same classes I was bored by.

I would certainly be more interested by history lessons as an adult. Although not with one particular teacher, who's still at the same school today and who is still the most loathed member of staff among what is now my niece's generation. She's got good taste. ;) 

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The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?

Which is, indeed, exactly how it was in the occupied Channel Islands.

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Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.

anthony beevor's book on stalingrad is superb

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One of the reasons it was called a WORLD WAR was the various theatres where battles were fought, I was surprised to find out about the African battles, mainly fought because of Germanys colonies there, we also have to remember that the Italians & Japanese also fought on our side in their own various areas, and that South Africa was seriously divided between the English sorry, British supporters & the Afrikaaners, who supported the Axis countries because they were promised independence if they won.

And it all started because of Serbian Seperatism.

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Which is, indeed, exactly how it was in the occupied Channel Islands.

 

Indeed.

 

As an aside, when we were in the Caribbean (family people lived there, we stayed a couple of times) we visited the national museum in Antigua.  Its version of its people's history would, I suspect, be unrecognisable to most Brits - especially their take on how hard they had to work to get their claims for independence taken seriously.

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History's wasted on kids. The vast majority of us are just not interested in the past when we're young.

 

I was bored by my school lessons as I had so few reference points*. Now Im fascinated, and would gladly pay good money to have the same teachers give me the same classes I was bored by.

 

*eg

 

Teacher: "The Romans invaded Britain in 55BC".

 

Me (to myself): "The Romans?? Flook me, one city conquered our whole country? Why did they choose us? That's a bit random. What about Milan and Juventus, where did they conquer? We must have been c rap. Etc."

I loved history lessons when I was a kid even though most of it was nonsense(I didn't know at the time)

when I was about six my dad took me to ponte castle. I was spellbound, a real castle where there had been battles and that had dungeons, and a churche next to it that had had its roof blown off by Oliver cromwell. That was all I needed. I saw and still do see history in everything around me .

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We celebrate our victories in the Hundred Years War ( another misnomer) particularly the stunning victories at Crecy and Agincourt.

They say the most important battle in any war is the last battle as that defines the outcome of the war. I was never taught about the battle of Castillon -which we lost.

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