We’re taught history under neat subject headings: dates, people, movements that do remarkable things (like end slavery). The assumption is that what’s past – in terms of bullying policemen or grisly haircuts – is very much past, fit for nostalgic purpose, potentially relevant only as some BBC classic serial. And the assumption beyond that, 30 or 50 years on, is that human existence automatically involves the “progress” that politicians promise from every platform. Here’s a long march towards more of everything desirable: more burgers, more holidays, more medication, more sweet satisfactions.
But real life, when you examine content, not style, isn’t like that. Real life features greed, venality and Archie’s spiritual emptiness in unchanging quantities. And, even in material ways, “progress” can seem a surprisingly frail concept.