Made in England?

What do trainers, bungee jumping and the splitting of the atom all have in common?

If you said: “they were all invented or pioneered in England,” then you’re right. Remarkably though, the English public are a little shaky when it comes to knowledge of the country’s many technological, scientific and societal triumphs.

In a recent poll by YouGov, 41% of those polled believed bungee jumping to have originated in New Zealand, with only 10% correctly stating that the first bungee jump was carried out off Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. It seems perfectly plausible that such an occurrence would happen in New Zealand, but does that say more about England’s perceived national identity than that of New Zealand’s? As a nation, England is still characterised by the ‘stiff upper lip’ ideology, despite such a notion being wildly out-dated. Likewise, 47% believed that Manhattan was the founding place of iron framing technology – essential for the construction of skyscrapers, when only 7% correctly answered Shrewsbury.

Historic England is aiming to rectify this, and wants to proudly display the various ground-breaking moments in English history that have been wrongly attributed to others through its new campaign: Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places. “By telling a history of England in 100 places, we want to help people understand the many spots, right across our country that have shaped the world, creating advances in science, the arts, trade and industry, and we want the public to nominate the ones they think are the most important to our national story,” says Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England.

One positive stereotype about England is that we are a proud nation, full of eccentrics, pioneers, individuals and storytellers. The stories of our nation’s triumphs and innovations are ones that deserve to be told and retold for generations, to preserve our history and to shape it as it happens – but also so we remember the sacrifices, risks, and accidents and the people who kick-started them. We also talk to our clients about the power of storytelling in both our sense of ourselves, and in other people’s understanding of what we do. It is brilliant to see Historic England taking a hands-on approach to right these wrongs – we’d be doing England a disservice otherwise.

The campaign is scheduled to run well into2018, with the final 100 places decided by an esteemed panel of judges which includes Mary Beard, George Clarke, Tristram Hunt, Professor Robert Winston, Bettany Hughes and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. The places that make the cut will be featured in a book and a series of podcasts, but it is up to the public to nominate potential sites for the shortlist.

Details here: https://historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/100-places/

Jack – @von_hooligan

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