Friday, October 12, 2007

Start them young, confuse them muchly

Thomas, a 7 year old child I look after, is holding my inflatable globe. "I'm going to find England, where J K Rowling lives."

A few minutes later he's back, he can't find England. "There it is," I point to the pink splodge and get back to getting afternoon tea together.

"But it doesn't say England." The inflatable globe isn't proving as distracting as I'd like.

"They've called it the UK, rather than England."


"The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales"


"Well - " I put afternoon tea on the table. "A long time ago England and Wales had a war and England beat Wales. Then England and Scotland had a war and England beat Scotland. Then England and Ireland had a war and England beat Ireland. Ireland fought back, so part of Ireland got to be free from England, but not all of it." I have relatives who would not appreciate the implication that Wales didn't fight back - but I don't want to complicate things.

"England also beat Samoa" Where did he learn that from?

"Yes England beat Samoa, but that wasn't till much later. Before England could go around beating countries on the other side of the world, it had to take over the countries closer to home." It's never to young to start on some basic education about colonialism. "England beat lots of places and took their land, like New Zealand, Australia and Zimbabwe."

"South Africa beat England." Oh.

"Yes, South Africa did beat England in the Rugby World Cup. We use lots of the same words to describe war as we do to describe sport." Not quite where I expected to end up, but I guess it's a start.


  1. Anonymous11:59 am

    Ouch! But fascinating.

    We had a go at the same difficult questions in our house.

  2. Well, technically Germany beat Samoa, then New Zealand beat them and took it off them.

    Both countries, of course, beat the Samoans.

    (Amphibology warning)

  3. Technically, England fought a war with Scotland, which Scotland eventually won, then three hundred years later the King of Scotland inherited the throne of England. Not denying that a fair amount of cultural hegemony came from England, and that coercion and bribery were used in the 1707 Act of Union, but it really wasn't a case of straightforward conquest.

  4. I can't believe no-ones pointed out that JK Rowling lived in Scotland - I clearly wasn't paying any attention to this conversation at all when having it. All the better to blog about

  5. Ireland (the republic) is not part of the UK. Only Northern Ireland is.