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Why Everything You Thought You Knew About History Is Wrong / History

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History is bunk, said American industrialist Henry Ford. Now we want to back him up — with some very surprising examples. Read about Lady Godiva who never rode through the streets naked... and the other historical 'facts' that aren't true.

Lady Godiva didn’t take off her clothes

She was immortalised in an Alfred Tennyson poem, but Lady Godiva may not have ridden naked through Coventry Market to protest at taxes levied by her husband, the Earl of Mercia.
While there is evidence to suggest she did at least exist — she was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman in the mid-11th century — there is no contemporary account of the famous ride. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle — which is usually reliable as a record of that historical time — is silent. The first record surfaces in 1236, in the writings of chronicler Richard of Wendover.
As with other folklore tales, over the centuries the story acquired romantic additions.
It was a poem by Tennyson in 1842 that popularised the final story. His Godiva, published 800 years after the supposed event, cemented all the elements into the version we know today.

The Vikings never had horns on their helmets

None of the helmets unearthed from Viking archaeological sites have horns.
These appeared as an illustration of Viking headgear only in the 19th century, thanks to Swedish artist Gustav Malmstrom, who used them in an edition of an ancient Scandinavian tale.
Some historians have even doubted the Vikings’ reputation for violence. A 1995 investigation by the BBC Timewatch series poured cold water on the image of the Viking as a deranged pillager.
Professor Janet Nelson, a medieval historian at King’s College, London, said it was difficult to find evidence of specific raids in contemporary accounts.
‘In fact, there isn’t a single case of rape,’ she told the programme. Instead, the average Viking was more likely to be ‘a decent, respectable migrant’ who was ‘a little dull’. Anglo-Saxon England, it seems, was invaded by an orderly band of gentle accountants.

The kilt was an English invention

In 1727, Thomas Rawlinson, an immigrant Lancastrian ironworks owner, wanted a more practical outfit for his Scottish furnace workers than the traditional native dress — a long, flapping, pleated cloak.
The shortened, skirt-like result was safe and comfortable in the heat of the works.
Kilts became a national symbol only when the English banned them after the Scots tried to depose George II in the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
They became associated with the cause of Scottish pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie.

King Harold wasn’t shot in the eye

The number one date in British history is 1066 — the year of the Battle of Hastings when Harold was killed by an arrow through the eye.
The only problem is that the arrow story was created more than a decade after the battle.
Thirty accounts in Latin, written immediately after the battle, make no mention of it. The accounts of those present, such as the Norman knight William of Poitiers, record Harold being killed by four of William the Conqueror’s knights.
They captured Harold in the melee of the battle, and beheaded and disemboweled him on the battlefield. One even cut off his ‘leg’ — a Norman euphemism for the penis — and carried it away as a souvenir.
The arrow story was introduced 15 years later to convey a symbolic message. An arrow in the eye was the punishment for perjury — the Norman invaders regarding Harold as a perjurer for breaking his promise to back William’s claim to the throne...

Продолжение читайте в журнале English4U №12 (декабрь 2011) на который можно подписаться или купить здесь.

30 декабря 2011
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