‘Good morning class, welcome to Incan History. In today’s class, we will be investigating the Spanish Conquest and Cortez’ quest for El Dorado.’ I shuffled in my borrowed brogues across the raised stage to the podium, leaning in until the microphone feedback woke everybody up. ‘Now, I understand that you probably think this is a dry subject. Taught by Professor Mooneyham, it probably is. Does he still do the thing where he talks into his sandwich?’
There were a few murmurs in class, people who’d woken from their alcohol induced slumber as they realised this wasn’t going to be a normal lesson. ‘That’s a yes then. Well, I will not be talking into any sandwiches, simply into your ever expanding minds. By which I mean, I’m going to tell you all about the Spanish Conquests.’
‘Now, as everybody knows, the conquests began in 1492 when Columbo sailed to America with the Nina, the Pinta and the Guinness. The Great Explorer, who of course had been looking for India, arrived upon the land and said ‘Oi, mate, got any spices?’ To which the Natives replied, ‘Sod off pal, all we got is these funny lookin’ ‘erbs mate, innit.’ Of course, Columbo, not knowing the language, ran back to his ships and set sail for home, wondering why it was very cold and full of penguins when he got there. He ran to his Patron, Queen Isa… of Spain, and said ‘Mummy, Mummy, the horrible natives picked on me.’
The Queen looked at him, crying that ‘Nobody picks on my baby!’ and declared war. She chose Cortez, a man raised on cold, nutritious, gold, and sent him over to show those Natives who was boss. Cortez arrived with a large number more ships than Columbo and ran around in circles for a bit before marching. One of the Natives, a man known only to history, told Cortez of El Dorado. Now, as most of you know, Cortez was hungry by this point, having had no gold to eat for months, and so led all of his bajillion men on a crazed hunt for the fabled city.’
I rested my elbows on the podium, looking out over the crowd. ‘This is history, people! This is what history is, a total collection of bullshit, poised like dominos ready to fall. This is why we need research, why we need facts, why we need historians! I saw half of you taking notes throughout that speech, were you even paying attention to what you were writing?’ I slammed my palm down. ‘Wake up, people!’
‘Charles?’ Professor Mooneyham stood at the door. ‘What are you…?’ He didn’t get to finish his sentence. I tore off my tweed jacket and threw it into the class, all listening now as I ran through the door.
‘History is the future! Learn it!’
The Idiot in Tin Foil