In the history special in the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, Richard J Evans addresses Michael Gove's argument that the current National Curriculum in history should be replaced with a British-focused narrative. Evans replies that "blaming the curriculum is wrong" and "far from being in a state of terminal decay ... history in schools is actually a success story". He notes that there is a strong smell of "Tory Euro-scepticism" in the view that too little British history is taught in schools and argues that forcing children to learn about British kings and queens is "a quack remedy for a misdiagnosed complaint" that would end up putting students off studying the subject altogether.
In Books, Amanda Foreman reviews Robert Holland's Blue Water Empire: the British in the Mediterranean since 1800, noting the irony in the fact that "the country that has had the greatest influence on Mediterranean affairs for the past two centuries is now seeking immunity from the region". According to Foreman, the book, while heavy going, is "an important corrective to current historical amnesia" and one that will "remain the definitive account of Anglo-Mediterranean history for years to come".
In the Books interview, Jonathan Derbyshire talks to historian Sir David Cannadine about his new book The Right Kind of History, which examines the teaching of history in English schools in the 20th century. Cannadine argues that the teaching of history is more controversial than the teaching of other subjects because there is no set global syllabus that people can follow. Of Michael Gove, Cannadine says: "I certainly hope that he thinks this book offers a lot of useful advice ... I am hoping it will persuade him that the major problem is that [history] needs to be made compulsory to the age of 16."
Also in the history special: John Gray reviews John Lewis Gaddis's new biography of George F Kennan and praises the book's ability to capture the complexity of Kennan's character, as well as his ultimate disillusionment with US foreign policy. Richard Overy is left disappointed byh Piers Paul Read's The Dreyfus Affair and David Herman reviews David Cesarani and Eric J Sundquist's new book Afterthe Holocaust.
Elsewhere in the Critics: Ryan Gilbey looks at the latest political biopics; Rachel Cooke shares her thoughts on BBC4's Jonathan Meades on France and Antonia Quirke discusses a new radio programme on the World Service. Plus: Sophie Elmhirst explains why a death festival is well worth a visit and Will Self on pizza.