- To me history as taught at school was like all those memories of galleries, castles and historic monuments that I didn't have. There was the same sense that if there was only some matrix, some philosophical framework to which I could attach all these facts then they would all make sense and they would all stay with me. And then halfway through Marx's Wages, Prices and Profits I suddenly thought to myself, 'Fuck me! This shit is actually true.' … Once you understood Marx all the apparent chaos of human existence resolved itself into a coherent and comprehensive pattern. People fought not because they differed about how to wear a shirt but because they represented economic classes whose interests conflicted. The Cavaliers were landed aristocrats and their allies who wanted to hang on to a way of life being superseded by Cromwell's merchant class. Slavery was abolished not out of some idea 'niceness' in the Northern states but because the industrial factory owners of Chicago and Detroit wanted the blacks to work in their factories, to be 'wage slaves' rather than actual slaves, though often the improvement in their physical conditions was marginal. The British Empire wasn't some project designed to bring enlightenment to ignorant savages, but rather a brutal and rapacious exploitation of peoples who were often more humane than us.
You can imagine, armed with this philosophy, how full of myself I now became. Even when I hadn't had the secret of human history in my grasp I had been a mouthy little bastard in class. Now I was unstoppable.