If I ruled the world, I would—before I was kicked out, strung up or sent into exile—encourage a closer engagement with the past. Like my illustrious predecessor on this page, Simon Schama, I go for the idea of making history a compulsory subject until the age of 16. Whether you wish to be a biochemist, hedge fund tycoon, lobsterman or—God forbid—an MP, not a lot in the world around us makes sense without a thorough grounding in what one of my school history teachers used to loftily proclaim was “the queen of disciplines.”
But aside from such required book learning in the classroom, I would decree that all should benefit from a more thorough acquaintance with the stuff left over from the past: all those castles, gardens, stately homes, locomotives, libraries, market crosses, parish churches, sailing ships, cathedrals, canals, viaducts, watering troughs, theatres, town halls, city walls, signalling boxes, landscapes, gardens, menhirs, dolmens, follies, mausoleums and ring forts; all that stuff that proves that we were not the first nor will be the last to tread this blessed plot. All that stuff that we now call heritage.