Trevor Phillips appears to have gone a bit odd. In his speech
at the Labour conference (sponsored by the Smith Institute! Boo! Boo!) he said that we need to "rewrite British history
" in order to make it more inclusive, giving examples. Two problems - he's talking balls in the specific examples, and balls more generally.
Part of the job of heritage is to cognitize - give physical existence - to that national story.
Piffle. This simply doesn't mean anything. Making words up to look clever is rarely a good strategy. I suppose he might mean 'history is important' - but frankly who knows?
"When we talk about the Armada it's only now that we are beginning to realise that part of it is Muslims," Mr Phillips told the meeting. "It was the Turks who saved us, because they held up Armada at the request of Elizabeth I."
Nice story, but it's unfortunately at best grossly misleading, and at worst flatly untrue. The argument
, put forward by Dr Jerry Brotton, is that Elizabeth I sought an understanding with the Ottoman Empire (not Turkey, for God's sake - it was 350 years before Turkey was created) that the latter would continue to threaten Spain in the Mediterranean, thereby reducing the number of ships available to the Spanish.
"If the Armada had been bigger it would have taken Britain," said Dr Jerry Brotton.
And that's pretty damn tendentious too. The main reason that the Armada was defeated was that, even though it massively outnumbered the English navy, it was qualitatively inferior in seamanship and gunnery - a larger fleet would have meant more logistical problems - which were already considerable - and not much more chance of victory. In any event, the Turkish 'influence' was insignificant.
The letter, ordered the ambassador, William Harborne, to incite the Turks to harry the Spanish navy. It was written in the mid-1580s
It was written in 1584 or 1585, 3-4 years before the Armada, and had no impact on Turkish policy, because they were busy at the time in the Balkans. It's nonsense.
So perhaps the reason that I am speaking to you in English today rather than Spanish lies not with Sir Francis Drake’s derring-do, but with the first Anglo-Turkish alliance. Perhaps that should count for something when Turkey’s membership of the EU comes to be considered in a few years’ time.
Hmm. Even if you were right, which you aren't, might not the Spanish have something to say about that? Anything else?
But we do know that of all the countries of Europe, Britain enjoyed the most extensive trade with Muslim lands throughout the first millennium after Christ. Happily, today English schoolchildren are learning that there is more to Genghis Khan than the hordes.
I'm pretty certain that Ghengis wasn't a Muslim actually - the Mongols had their own religion I believe. There's more, but it's not really worth dissecting. If the best reason to rewrite British history is that Elizabeth I's spymaster Walsingham wrote letters to her ambassador in the Ottoman Empire then perhaps we'd better leave it as it is.