Dickens at Westminster, a ceremony in tweets

Dickens’ 200th birthday, the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. (Live tweeting taking place under cover of the Order of Service, so as to be as unobtrusive as possible: all spelling/typos sic.)

Dickens' most recent biographer arrives.

Archbishop of Canterbury arrives.

First [past the] post

Well, I’ve joined the 21st century. And I’m not sure I like it. The cheesy font I have chosen for the header to this post is called ‘Jane Austen’. But would Jane have recognized it? I beg to differ.

She wouldn’t have recognized the census, either (before her time). As a historian, I am thrilled by the census. It lets me track down people,watch the rise and fall of neighbourhoods, lets me see what’s ‘normal’: in my street in 1861, perfectly middle class, if not very prosperous, only one household had a servant. (Take that, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’.)

But as a private (very private) person, I am appalled by the planned census. The Victorians made do with name-rank-serial-number — name, who was the ‘head’ of the familiy, ages, places and dates of birth. The 2011 census, according to the Independent, is going to be 32 pages of questions on my health, wealth, and the state of my central heating (poor, since they ask). Of course, when I was at university in New York, living in a dorm, the census there wanted to know if I had an artesian well.

So perhaps for 2021 a halfway house? I realize governments don’t make their plans on what historians will or won’t want in a hundred years time, but the thought of this perfect time-capsule being destroyed, just because people put their religion down as ‘Jedi’…

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