Citizen's booklet is past a joke

28th April 2006 at 01:00
A Government-sanctioned history of the United Kingdom has been criticised by historians for getting the date of the union wrong, omitting to mention the Falklands conflict and saying that Guy Fawkes "allegedly" attempted to blow up Parliament.

Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, published by the Home Office, was written to introduce new immigrants to the UK and its customs.

But the book is being bundled with school citizenship textbooks by booksellers such as Amazon, and historians fear it will lead to pupils being given an inaccurate view of the past.

Its chapter on history has been condemned by the Historical Association (HA) as "shoddy" and "howler-riddled".

The association submitted a seven-page list of errors last year before the booklet was due for a reprint, but says most of them have been ignored.

The version available today is still peppered with blunders, such as a claim that Cromwell beat Charles II at Worcester before invading Scotland, rather than afterwards.

It also asserts that the 1707 Act of Union between England and Scotland created the UK. In fact this did not happen until the 1800 Act of Union with Ireland, which is not mentioned at all.

The association points out that a section on the Thatcher era neglects any mention of the Falklands conflict or the miners' strike.

Sean Lang, the HA's honorary secretary, said: "I find it really difficult to believe that a book from the Home Office can't get the name and construction of the country correct.

"I think the chapter on history is so misleading, so inaccurate, that it really needs to be taken out, rewritten and rethought."

But Sir Bernard Crick, the politics professor who wrote the chapter on history, as well as the two reports that led to the introduction of citizenship, dismissed the association's corrections as "absolutely quibbling".

"There are errors in it because it was done fairly quickly. We didn't want to keep immigrants waiting for their citizenship," he said. "It is being revised."

The HA is concerned that, as well as misinforming immigrants and their children, it could fall into the hands of schools looking for resources to help teach the compulsory citizenship element of the national curriculum.

"The word 'citizenship' is emblazoned across the cover," said Mr Lang.

Sir Bernard said the booklet was only meant as general background for language teachers of new immigrants.

A Home Office spokesman said all the HA's points would be taken into account when a new, fully-revised version was published in the autumn.

Platform 21

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