King empire

Students are more likely to know more about Martin Luther King than Alfred the Great

Schools should teach more about England’s medieval history and not just focus on the ‘two Hs – Hitler and Henry VIII’, says one MP.

It comes as the government cracks down on ‘dead end courses’.

There has been an outcry this week after Sheffield Hallam University suspended its English Literature degree amid a government crackdown on what ministers say are ‘low value’ courses

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: ‘Sheffield Hallam’s decision to close its English literature course is as shocking as it is depressing, but appears to be part of a wider agenda being imposed on universities by the government against the arts and humanities.

middle ages

Curator Alexander Stafford said there was a risk of ‘losing vast swathes of our history’ if more schools did not teach medieval history.

The MP for Rother Valley said the subject is ‘very neglected in schools, with very little teaching at GCSEs or A-levels’ and most students ‘do not have the opportunity to study anything i.e. before 1066″.

He told the PA news agency: “A lot of our teaching of history in this country revolves around the two Hs – Hitler and Henry VIII – and we actually need to expand.

“There is a lot more to our story; our country is quite old with a lot of formative history. We have to discuss it, talk about it. »

He added: “It’s a situation where students are much more likely to learn about someone like Martin Luther King than Alfred the Great.

“I would say most students haven’t heard of Athelstan, who is the first king of a united England, and I think it’s important that we get the medieval history, of the fall of the ‘Roman Empire in the West from 476, to the discovery of the New World in 1492, really in the spotlight.

The MP is due to lead an adjournment debate in the Commons on Monday, promoting medieval history as a school subject.


Mr Stafford said there were lessons to be learned from the past, including how the Black Death compared to the Covid-19 pandemic, or how ‘the clash between East and West’ in the Crusades has a “clear parallel with what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Mr Stafford studied medieval history at A level and specialized in the subject during his degree.

He said there is a “self-fulfilling cycle” between children who don’t learn medieval history in school and later don’t tackle it in college.

“I think we are in danger of losing huge chunks of our history,” he added.

Mr Stafford said the topic could help children develop their reasoning and thinking skills, as a discussion of the “few sources” that underlie medieval history could lead to different conclusions.

He said: “It teaches children to think things through rather than saying ‘That’s the right answer, that’s what happened and why’ – we can actually have a proper discussion about the different potential options that surround him.”

Related: A Letter In A Newspaper Explaining Why You Should Study English Literature Is Going Viral