J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

The B.B.C. Are Coming

B.B.C. Four has started to broadcast the new series American History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley in Britain.

The first episode, on the American Revolution, can be viewed here on DailyMotion with a great many randomly timed commercial interruptions. The series might well be broadcast in the U.S. of A. sometime in the future, and I’m sure watching it then would be a less frustrating experience.

I speak with host Lucy Worsley while standing beside the North Bridge in Concord for about two minutes, somewhere between the 15th and 20th minute of the first episode (commercials not included). I’m pleased to say they kept in my allusion to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

We actually recorded for over an hour about various topics in various ways, but what made it into the program is a discussion of why Americans were so keen on the militia system over a standing army.

Points that didn’t make the cut include:
  • Eighteenth-century British Whigs also valued the militia system over a standing army. but they had reconciled themselves with the latter because…
  • Militias are really good on defense, poor on offense, so a society that wants to invade other places and build an empire can’t rely on short-term troops…
  • As Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress finally agreed on after some disastrous periods early in the Revolutionary War…
  • But the ideological appeal of the militia was so strong that the new republic went back to that system soon after the war ended, shrinking its permanent military for a few years, and…
  • Our Constitution’s Second Amendment dates from that brief period, but the militia system its authors viewed as essential to a republic no longer exists.
It was a fine conversation on a lovely day last June, so I was pleased with the experience. The biggest challenge was making arrangements by phone with the helpful assistant producer who was my contact. She has such a fine Scottish accent that I needed an extra second to decode the sounds of each sentence before responding, as if I were speaking on satellite delay or just a bit slow.

My thanks to Jim Hollister and his colleagues at Minute Man National Historical Park for helping me be part of this project.

1 comment:

Credo2065 said...

America is “well-branded...!” Ha! I believe that’s a very nice way of saying we’re full of s**t...!
Can’t wait to watch it. (Well, I’ll probably take your advice and wait until it’s aired here.)