Sunday, August 06, 2006

Prepare to Meet Thy Domesday

News that the Domesday Survey is now available on-line from the National Archives has been greeted with enthusiasm by those of us who still feel that history is important.

In spite of the carping comments of The Guardian newspaper, whose correspondent appeared to be under the mistaken impression that it was an 11th. century Yellow Pages (he complained that it took a while to access the pages, that it then cost £3.50 for a detailed print-out and that then it contained nothing that interested him. Presumably he was searching for the telephone number of a handy swine herd!) it is a tremendous achievement. The fact that the book has survived for 900 years is remarkable in itself and, making it readily available without having to drag yourself all the way to Kew, is a tremendous plus for serious researchers. The on-line service also provides for a modern translation of the text, something that alone must be worth the £3.50 charged that the man from The Guardian seemed to resent.

The really depressing revelations are that it seems that only 80% of the British public had even heard of it and that of these, 13% thought it was extracts from the bible, one benighted soul attributed it to Tony Blair and, even more alarmingly, 2% thought it was by Dan Brown. One wonders what the history teachers in the schools are using their time in the classroom for. Or do they not have history teachers nowadays?

The implications of this are enormous. Reflect that, if civilisation survives for another 900 years, admittedly a slim chance at the present rate, our descendants will be able to read The Da Vinci Code on-line!

Observant readers of my drivel will have noted that I don’t think much of Mr. Brown’s highly successful piece of twaddle. If you can stomach them, try reading a few of his other efforts which lacked the entertaining background of the Da Vinci caper.

Long ago, I had read Holy Blood, Holy Grail on which he had heavily based his work, and though, in my opinion, that too was twaddle, at any rate it was readable, well written twaddle. It’s not that his book is unreadable, it’s mildly entertaining, but without the theme which he nicked, it would be just another pot-boiler. His publishers deserve more credit for its success by risking sending out an extraordinary number of review copies to get the public excited and lead them to seizing upon it as though it were the Holy Grail itself.

If you haven’t done so already and feel that, in order to keep up with modern society, you must read The Da Vinci code, I would recommend you splash out and buy the illustrated version. The pictures are quite good.


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