Friday, February 03, 2006

Worst Britons, by century

A few days ago a friend sent me this BBC list of "Worst Historical Britons," one per century since the 11th c. It includes such famous people as King John, Thomas Becket, Jack the Ripper, and less famous ones, outside of Britain at least, such as Oswald Moseley and the "Butcher" Duke of Cumberland, responsible for the massacre at Culloden.

Some things worth remarking on. This might as well be a list of worst historical Englishmen, since they are all men and none of them came from some other part of Britain. (Whether King John or the Butcher Duke were English instead of Poitevin or Hanoverian might be an interesting debate.) Anyone want to nominate for "worst British or English woman"?

Also, it looks to me like a "people you despise on a visceral level" list. The choice of Jack the Ripper speaks for itself. As a sometime student of the late 14th century, I gave a hearty assent to the choice of Archbishop Thomas Arundel, illustrated above, who was chosen for his 15th century career as a burner of heretics. But he has plenty more on his record. Though he's obscure to most people, to know him is to loathe him, and I know him.

It would also be interesting to see what foreigners (even non-English Britons) might say. The Hammer of the Scots, anyone? Henry V, who massacred prisoners at Agincourt?


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