By: Michael Cooke, Teacher of History
The History Society met in the Board Room on Thursday for a symposium entitled ‘Clio and Calliope’, an invitation to consider how fictional sources may be valuable or distorting for the historian.
A number of students took up the challenge in varied ways. Rhys Pearson-Shaul went back to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain, while Freddie Green, assisted by Dominic Weatherby, looked at a twentieth-century work by Philip K. Dick imagining a Nazi victory in the Second World War and how a fascist world would have looked. Others focussed mainly on the nineteenth century, with Friederike Fischer starting from the old German National Anthem (much misinterpreted!) but also looking at Heinrich Heine, the great mid-century poet, whose works were first on the Nazi bonfires in 1933.
Mr Cooke encouraged students to look at Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, a family saga reflecting tensions in German society through the century, while Zoe Reynolds discussed Chekhov’s short stories, powerfully illustrating the extremes of poverty in pre-revolutionary Russia. Scholarship lightly worn was as ever on display during an excellent evening.