Should we have to learn our history through The Crown?

The Aberfan disaster was depicted on The Crown
Aberfan: Many learned about the Aberfan disaster for the first time through Series 3 of the hit Netflix show. Source: Stephen McKay (via Geograph)
As many stated they were unaware of the Aberfan disaster until Series 3 of The Crown, we must ask whether we should learn our history through film and television?

By Tirion Davies | Editor-in-Chief

The fourth series of the hit Netflix show The Crown recently began streaming, offering the world a small glimpse of what life would have been like amongst the royal family durinStg the 1980s.

Although many aspects of the show are fictionalised – to have been a fly on the wall during some of those conversations; wouldn’t that have been fun? – the show also depicts real, historical events in which we saw the reactions from the royal family.

For many in Wales, The Crown made headlines during its third series for showing an event few were outside were aware of – the Aberfan disaster. The 1966 incident, which saw 144 deaths, including the deaths of 116 children as a result of a colliery spoil tip near Merthyr, was shown on the programme, as a key incident in which the reaction of the royal family was heavily scrutinised by many for their delayed response.

This year marked 54 years since the catastrophic disaster which left South Wales shaking. In Wales, it is an incident which will never be forgotten, but for many, the history is still fairly new.

Hundreds of people across Wales and Britain indicated the Aberfan disaster’s depiction on The Crown was the first time they had become aware of such an incident. Many have since said the same about the death of Louis Mountbatten in 1979, as a result of an attack by the Northern Irish paramilitary organisation, the Irish Republican Army.

But is it concerning that we’re learning more about Welsh and British history from television shows than many of us are learning in our schools?

It’s odd to think that many were taught about their nation’s history through film and television, as opposed to classrooms and lecture halls. Although yes, film and television can be educational – it is not their sole purpose. They are there to entertain and, in terms of The Crown’s episode on Aberfan, rouse emotion.

Many had their qualms with The Crown’s depiction of Aberfan, in particular because they put more of an emphasis on the Queen and her role, as opposed to following the lives of the grieving families in Aberfan they introduced at the beginning of the episode.

Regardless of this, The Crown is one of the only television programmes – and particularly the most famous and world-renowned – to show the events of that horrendous October day in 1966.

But shouldn’t we be doing more to educate the youth of today on their history?

It’s baffling that so few are familiar with key figures and events shown in film and television. Although the Aberfan disaster’s portrayal in The Crown is just one example, many admitted that before The Imitation Game’s 2014 release, they had no idea who Alan Turing was. For some, Dunkirk was an education into an incident they admitted they were fairly unfamiliar with.

Film and television should always have the power to incite intrigue and offer a voice or alternate view on historical events and figures, but perhaps it shouldn’t be the main way we learn about our history.

Perhaps more should be done to encourage more of an education on various events, including those involving minorities and incidents which are often overlooked.

Dechreuodd cyfres newydd The Crown dechrau chwarae ar Netflix yn ddiweddar, yn dangos elfen fach o fywydau’r teulu brenhinol dros gyfnod yr 80au a’r 90au.

Er bod nifer o elfennau’r rhaglen yn ffuglennol, mae’r rhaglen hefyd yn dangos digwyddiadau hanesyddol go iawn, lle gwelwyd ymateb y teulu brenhinol.

I nifer yng Nghymru, llwyddodd The Crown i gyrraedd y papurau newydd yn y trydedd gyfres gan dangos digwyddiad nad oedd nifer tu fas i Gymru’n ymwybodol ohono – trychineb Aberfan. Roedd y digwyddiad, lle gwelwyd marwolaeth 116 plentyn o ganlyniad i lithrad glo ger Merthyr, wedi’i ddangos ar y rhaglen, fel un o’r prif ddigwyddiadau yn hanes Prydain lle’r oedd ymateb y teulu brenhinol wedi’i beirniadu am fod yn araf.

Bu eleni yn cyfri 54 blynedd ers y digwyddiad erchyll. Yng Nghymru, hanes bythgofiadwy yw hi, ond i rai tu fas i’r wlad hon, y mae’n hanes weddol newydd.

Sonnir nifer ledled y byd bod portread trychineb Aberfan ar The Crown oedd y tro cyntaf iddynt glywed amdano. I nifer, yr oedd marwolaeth Louis Mountbatten yn 1979 gan yr IRA yn ymateb tebyg.

Ond a yw hi’n broblem ein bod yn dysgu mwy am hanes Cymru a Phrydain gan raglenni teledu nag y mae nifer ohonom yn ei ddysgu o fewn ein hysgolion?

Ceir sôn gan nifer eu bod wedi’i phoeni am bortread Aberfan yn y rhaglen, gan oeddynt yn sôn bod y rhaglen yn rhoi fwy o bwyslais ar y Frenhines, yn hytrach nag ar y teuluoedd a wnaeth dioddef o ganlyniad i’r trychineb.

Er hyn, The Crown yw un o’r unig raglenni – a’r unig raglen ryngwladol – i ddangos y diwrnod hynny ym mis Hydref 1966

Ond na ddylai ni wneud yn fwy i addysgu ieuenctid heddiw am ei hanes?

Mae’n od bod cyn lleied o bobl yn anymwybodol o drychineb Aberfan a digwyddiadau eraill yn hanes. Er dylai bod gan deledu a ffilm y pŵer i ddangos safbwynt newydd ar ddigwyddiadau hanesyddol, neu gynnig llais i bobl wahanol, mae’n bosib ni ddylai hyn fod y brif ffordd ein bod yn dysgu ein hanes.

Efallai dylai bod mwy yn cael ei wneud i addysgu pawb am ddigwyddiadau pwysig yn hanes Cymru a Phrydain, yn enwedig hanes a lleisiau’r lleiafrifoedd.

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