History repeats itself with illusions of 'freedom'

Brexit campaigners in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex back in 2016

Brexit campaigners in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex back in 2016 - Credit: PA

Brexit wasn't the first time leaders tried to stoke up tensions in the name of 'freedom' 

I enjoyed Ed West’s article on “The fantasy of the ‘free-born English’” (TNE #233). The idea that the Anglo-Saxons were free but crushed by the ‘Norman Yoke’ was always a bit silly. According to Domesday Book, William the Conqueror’s survey of England, in 1066 some 10% of the population were slaves. It seems to have been the dastardly Norman French who put a stop to the practice. Just like Brexit, removing imaginary repression in the name of illusionary freedom.

Professor Edward Higgs BA (Oxon) DPhil, FRHS 
Professor Emeritus, Department of History 
University of Essex




In 1965 the set poetry for the Joint Matriculation Board English literature was “English and Scottish Ballads”. We learned that in the Middle Ages “Robin Hood” was the name given the male leader of a coven of Witches. “Maid Marian” was the female leader. Green was the colour of Wicca.

They lived rough in the forest to escape religious persecution by Christians. Does this put the idea of freedom and Robin Hood in a different context?
Don Adamson Rainham, Kent

Surely the reason that we “free-born Englishmen” have overwhelmingly accepted lockdown is that we all by now know someone (or of someone) who’s suffered with/died of Covid. And most of us know broken healthcare workers who share their frontline horror stories.

Ironically, it’s the tragic failure of Johnson and his cohort of cronies to act fast enough or effectively in the earlier days of the pandemic that accelerated all the above and reinforced the need for strict regulations.
Andrew Rogers, Downham Market

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