Blog, Chronicles

1066 and all that….

June 19, 2013

NEXT WEEK I shall be speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Normally I would roll out my history of the world in 60 minutes – starting with the Big Bang and running through 20 of the most amazing moments in world history to the present day. But not next week. The festival organiser, historian James Holland, has taken it upon himself to modify the title of my talk so it begins at 1066 – giving it a rather different trajectory……

Even though the change appeared in the programme without my knowledge, it is a happy tweak as now I have the chance to dwell on aspects of the past that usually skip me by at close to the speed of light.

Today I have spent a few minutes making up my mind about the 10 moments that seem to me to be the most significant in British history over the last 1,000 years, What’s so interesting is that I find my narrative quite unlike anything an English school child would ever learn at school. I suppose that occasionally they may bump into my moments or flirt with fragments of the story I will tell, but I bet they will never see it whole.

Why not? Because when British school children learn about their history they are almost presented with the story from the inside out. It’s about how we have changed the world. It’s about how our kings, queens, rulers, inventors, charlatans – how our indigenous inhabitants have made things the way they are.

External interferences are strongly discouraged – usually by simple omission. Indeed, the story almost always begins in 1066 – so that the ignominy of external interference can be got out of the way at the start, and, fortunately for us (unlike any other European country) never seriously has to be considered again. We have not been invaded since. We are an island nation, a scepter’d isle which built an empire on which the sun never set…..

Such a parochial, insular reading of “Our Island Story’ is as arrogant as it is absurd – yet the narrative is the one that dominates.  I am happy to report that it won’t be the diet that the youngsters and their parents / teachers will hear next Monday.

Such a parochial, insular reading of “Our Island Story’ is as arrogant as it is absurd

So – I wonder what will my chosen 10 moments be? Who will be the heroes, what were the forces, which are the inventions? My approach is as much about the forces that have shaped Britain as the way in which Britain has shaped the world.

I think I have just about decided on my list – although I shall continue to mull until the talk at Chalk next week. Perhaps in the meantime you can tell me yours? Please email / comment away – but remember no more than 10 are allowed. Next week I shall reveal my milestones – each with an accompanying prop for the coat of many pockets, of course!



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

News & Events

Illinois Chronicles to go to every school in the State!

What on Earth Publishing is delighted to announce that the Illinois200 Bicentennial Committee is funding the purchase and distribution of 10,000 copies of The Illinois Chronicles, a new approach to learning about State history K-12. All 5,000 schools in the State will receive two copies of the book, which is officially published on February 12th […]

Fun Stuff & Offers

Let the gift of knowledge go further this Christmas.

As the jingle of Christmas bells gets louder, it’s time to share some yuletide treasure. This year we are partnering up with Magic Breakfast to raise funds and spread some Christmas joy. Magic Breakfast is a UK charity that believes no child should miss out on the opportunity to improve their chances in life because they are too hungry […]

News & Events

Timeline Collection Wins Top U.S. Award

What on Earth Publishing’s ground-breaking series of fold-out timelines – The Timeline Collection – yesterday won the prestigious gold medal in the Parents’ Choice Foundation non-fiction children’s book awards. The awards, established in 1978, are one of the most highly respected in the country.

News & Events

The Story of Gibraltar

What on Earth Publishing is delighted to announce the launch of its new timeline title The Story of Gibraltar. Developed in partnership with MH Bland and Visit Gibraltar, this new timeline book charts the amazing story of the Rock from earliest times to the present day.


The Inspiration Edit reviews our NEW Dinosaurs! book.

Angela Milnes from The Inspiration Edit reviews our new book with The Natural History Museum, Dinosaurs!
“I love non-fiction factual books and this is a great book for kids. It has some lovely illustrations and lots of information to read…”

Fun Stuff & Offers

Curious Summer: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Keep curiosity alive this summer with fab days out for the whole family. Have a Curious Summer and walk in the childhood footsteps of one of the greatest playwrights in history; William Shakespeare. Step back in time with a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon this summer and discover the house where he was born and grew up, and […]

Fun Stuff & Offers, News & Events

Win a 6 month subscription to Juno Magazine!

This August marks the 50th issue of Juno Magazine, the magazine that promotes a natural approach to family life and to celebrate we are giving away a 6-month subscription to What On Earth? fans.  The bi-monthly magazine supports and inspires parents with more holistic views and each issue focusses on topics such as nutrition, home education, sustainability and […]

Fun Stuff & Offers, News & Events

Brodie’s dynamite Dino cards wins our £100 prize!

Wow! Have you seen this amazing hand-drawn set of Nature Top Trump cards from Brodie in Lincolnshire? A huge dinosaur fan and a talented artist Brodie’s set of cards impressed the whole team here at WoE?

Fun Stuff & Offers, News & Events

5000 FREE wallbooks… What on Earth? is going on?

From today until the general election (June 8th) we are giving away 5,000 FREE British history timeline books to the nation, so everyone has the opportunity to find out for themselves what it really means to be British!

News & Events, Reviews

An AMAZING talk, according to Gabe….

Last month we went to a presentation one evening at the kids’ school called “A History of the World in 20 Objects”. The presentation was given by author Christopher Lloyd, who wrote the book “What on Earth Happened”, and it was nothing short of amazing. The kids loved it, Matt and I loved it, and it’s actually resulted in multiple family discussions on historical events that have been both fun and interesting.


King Harold falls at Hastings as Normans invade England

THEY SAY that a month is a long time in politics. It’s even longer if you are an eleventh-century English king. On 25 September, the English king Harold Godwinson celebrated a magnificent victory at Stamford Bridge, in Yorkshire, after defeating an army of Norwegian invaders. But less than three weeks later he lay dead on a battlefield near Hastings, on the south coast, after his army was annihilated by French forces led by William, Duke of Normandy.


British History Story #3 – The Roman Invasion

World history is peppered with stories of walls: Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, The Berlin Wall. None of them were particularly successful at keeping people out – or keeping people in depending on your perspective! So what is this fascination with walls all about? Christopher Lloyd explores…..

News & Events

The bigger the story the better!

Most people, especially when they write non-fiction books – are specialists of some kind. Our modern culture is obsessed with people being experts, doctors and professors – so much so that to succeed in getting a good job (or being taken seriously as a non-fiction author) you must be an expert. “What’s your special topic?” asks John Humphries, host of the famous BBC Series Mastermind. Maybe it’s a species, an event in history, a famous person, an invention, a movement or a historic place.


Brick Castle reviews Wallbook of British History

I love looking at new books with my children, and sometimes a different sort of book comes along that really makes us pay attention. The What On Earth? Wallbook Of British History is definitely very different – and very impressive.From outside the hardback cover the Wallbook Timeline Of British History looks like a regular large format book, but open it out and inside is a pocket magnifier, a 2 metre long pullout wallbook, and an 18 page copy of The Chronicle – a brilliant mock up of an imaginary newspaper.

News & Events

Sunday Times British History Poster

Christopher Lloyd and Andy Forshaw have teamed up with the Sunday Times to produce a unique What on Earth? British History poster. It will be distributed free with the newspaper throughout the UK on Sunday April 10th. The poster features 20 of the top moments in our island’s history from the formation of Giant’s Causeway 60 million years ago to the present day. The back page depicts a list of all the Kings & Queens from 1066 to 2016 with key achievements from each reign.

News & Events, Videos

Listening to the Sounds of Science!

The Sounds of Science is a three-way collaboration between solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, composer Jill Jarman and Wallbook author Christopher Lloyd. The project aims to demonstrate how a narrative timeline can be conveyed effectively through a soundscape. Click here to see a video excerpt of the world premier in Edinburgh

News & Events

A Bayeux Tapestry for the 21st Century

With over 1,000 captions and illustrations, readers are taken on a visually exhilarating journey through the ages: from the dinosaurs, the Battle of Hastings, Henry VIII’s Reformation, Oliver Cromwell’s Civil War, George Stephenson’s Rocket to the invention of the internet by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s…and beyond!


Famous Author Christopher Lloyd Visits Truro Prep

Children’s author and historian Christopher Lloyd visited Truro Prep School on Wednesday 20 January to run an interactive workshop on Shakespeare. Mr Lloyd first taught Years Two, Three and Four in the Pre-Prep Hall followed by a second presentation to Years Five and Six later in the day.

Book Club

Winners of the ‘It’s extinct!’ November Book Club Competition Announced

We were inundated with some fantastic and scary pictures following November's Book Club competition in which we asked members to draw an extinct animal. We had great fun judging them all but there could only be three winners - congratulations to Nathan, Sebastian and Xander who have each won a personalised T-Rex-shirt.


Spring has sprung!

Spring is finally in the air, and with the sun scheduled to get his hat on this week, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and encourage children to explore the natural world around us. Daffodils and lambs are popping up everywhere, the woods are carpeted in bluebells and magnolia trees are in glorious full […]


Shakespeare Week

Monday 12th March marks the official start of Shakespeare Week – Hooray! A whole week dedicated to celebrating this wonderful and much-loved playwright. But with language deemed too flowery and complex for children, how are we to teach the youth of today about what this talented Englishman of old has written? Yes, your average 7-year-old […]