Fact and Fiction

The last episode of the three part series The Normans on BBC2 tonight, As I said in an earlier post I think this is a well presented and well produced documentary. However, I still have a tiny problem with it. Some of the information presented as fact in last weeks programme, particularly, around the subject of Hereward the Wake are not historical certainties but are aspects that can only really be judged as anecdotal evidence or legend. With history of this antiquity it is only to be expected that “fact” becomes intertwined with legend and a documentary can be forgiven for presenting them without differentation, but it still slightly concerning, especially when they are delivered in a programme that has a style of a no-nonsense, straight talking lecture on Norman History. It is how facts begin to get warped; someone else uses this programme as a reference and the information gains a certain verity. This episode also mentioned the way Anglo-Saxon words are used for the animal in the field (sheep, for example) but the French term is applied to the meat on the table (mutton). I am sure I have read that this is a bit of accepted wisdom that has no authenticity and was a creation of the Victorians. If so, it is slowly becoming assimilated into historical programmes as a fact which simply is not true.

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