In the Critics this week

Evans on history lessons, Foreman on the Mediterranean and Gray on American diplomacy.

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.

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Doing a Radiohead: how to disappear online

The band has performed an online Houdini in advance of its ninth album – but it’s harder than it looks. 

At the beginning of May, the band Radiohead’s web presence – well, its Twitter, Facebook, and website, at least – went offline.

Lead singer Thom Yorke has repeatedly criticised streaming, and the future of online music in general, and it's clear that his opinion fed into this month's decision to reject social media in favour of sending individual cards to the band's fans in the post. 

However, it’s also a clever publicity stunt in the run up to the rumoured release of the band's ninth album, since it plays into a growing paranoia around the lives we live online, and quite how permanent they are. In reality, though, Radiohead has done a pretty terrible job of disappearing from the internet. Its Facebook and Twitter accounts still exist, and widely available caching services actually mean you can still see Radiohead.com if you so wish. 

These are the steps you’d need to take to really disappear from the internet (and never be found).

Delete your acccounts

Radiohead may have deleted its posts on Facebook and Twitter, but its accounts – and, therefore user data – still exist on the sites. If this was a serious move away from an online presence, as opposed to a stunt, you’d want to delete your account entirely.

The site justdelete.me rates sites according to how easy they make it to delete your data. If you only hold accounts with “easy” rated sites, like Airbnb, Goodreads and Google, you’ll be able to delete your account through what justdelete.me calls a “simple process”. JustDelete.me also links you directly to the (sometimes difficult-to-find) account deletion pages.

Failing that, delete what you can

If, however, you’re a member of sites that don’t allow you to delete your account like Blogger, Couchsurfing or Wordpress, you may be stuck with your account for good. However, you should at least be able to delete posts and any biographical information on your profile.

If this bothers you, but you want to create an account with these sites, Justdelete.me also offers a “fake identity generator” which spits out fake names and other details to use in the signup process.

Go to Google

Search results are the hardest thing to erase, especially if they’re on sites which published your details without your permission. However, thanks to the European Commission “Right to be forgotten” ruling in 2014, you can now ask that certain search results be deleted using this online form.  

Ditch your smartphone

Smartphones tend to track your location and communicate with app and web servers constantly. For true privacy, you’d want to either disconnect your phone from all accounts (including iCloud or Google) or else get a basic phone which does not connect to the internet.

Give out your passwords

The artist Mark Farid decided in October 2015 to live without a digital footprint until April 2016, but was aghast when he realised quite how often our data is collected by our devices. As a result, he decided to live without bank accounts, use a phone without internet connectivity, and use an unregistered Oyster.

When I saw him speak at an event just before his off-grid experiment was due to begin, he announced that he would also be handing out the passwords to all his online accounts to the public. The kind of “bad data” which randomly hacked accounts would show would actually make him less traceable than a radio silence – a bit like how words written over other words mask them more than simply erasing them or scribbling on them would.

Accept that it probably won’t work

Even if you managed all this, the likelihood is that some of your daily activities would still leave a trace online. Most jobs require internet activity, if not an internet presence. Bank accounts are, let's face it, fairly necessary. And even Radiohead will, I’m willing to bet, reappear on the internet soon after their album arrives.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.