British history alive and kicking at Morley Literature Festival

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Literature lovers lined their stomachs with a three-course lunch in Tingley before stomaching a dollop of political and historical insight from Morley Literature Festival’s guest author.

Political journalist and author Colin Brown was speaking at The Village’s Literature Lunch about his latest book, Real Britannia - Our Ten Proudest Years - the Glory and the Spin, which is set to be WH Smith’s Book of the Month in November.

It was a “blunder” by Prime Minster David Cameron in America which sparked his journalistic curiosity leading him to write the book.

Back in 2010 the PM referred to Britain as having stood shoulder to shoulder with America in 1940, even though the US didn’t enter the war until the following year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

In the USA the PM appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman where he failed a British citizenship test and struggled to translate the Magna Carta into English.

When challenged by the BBC Today Programme the PM reiterated his belief that 1940 was ‘the proudest year in British history bar none.’

“Despite his Eton education,” said Mr Brown who admitted to failing an online citizenship test twice.

But what caused the biggest stir was the fact that the PM said that 1940 was Britain’s proudest year. So much so it led to a Yougov poll on the issue.

An inquisitive Mr Brown, who has recently retired after a 30-year career in Westminster, then began to research further.

He travelled the length and breadth of Britain to discover more about British history and to dispel some of the myths.

“Don’t let people tell you that history is boring, it’s alive and kicking,” said Mr Brown who had chosen Hull’s Wilberforce museum as one of the places to explore British history.

He said: “There is still real anger about slavery.”

Mr Brown had even considered calling his book To Hull and Back.

He continued to speak to experts across the country in places which defined key years in British history. Such as the Royal Armouries in Leeds which had tested arrowheads used in the battlefield as well as armour.

“They had men in armour on a treadmill,” he said of the heavy but flexible metal clothing.

He also dispelled myths about the Magna Carta which is hailed today as the bill of rights.

“It was never intended to be a legal document, it was intended to be read out,” said Mr Brown who has previously written books on John Prescott and Whitehall - The Street That Shaped a Nation.

Over 90 Morley folk - young and old - appeared delighted with the speech as a buzz echoed around the room, discussing poignant moments in British history.

Heritage enthusiasts also got a taste of local history at the weekend with the Literature Festival’s Morley Heritage Trail and a poetry walk.

Locals discovered more about the mills and quarries in Morley as well as the building of Morrison’s supermarket.

Other weekend highlights included historian Alison Weir, Penny University at La Cucina and a children’s workshop, Written in the Skies.

Morley Literature Festival continues until Sunday. For more information, go to