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UK Government should follow Wales and teach ‘imperial element’ of British history says historian

22 Mar 2022 3 minute read
Sathnam Sanghera and Empireland

The UK Government should follow Wales and teach the history of colonialism and black history, the author of a new book on the British Empire has said.

Sathnam Sanghera, the author of Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain, said that there should be less focus on the positives and negatives of the Empire and more on teaching the facts themselves.

In an article in the Times, Sathnam Sanghera pointed to Wales as an example of the change in how colonialism was being taught in schools.

“The demand for change in the teaching of imperial history is intensifying: British Empire was the biggest empire in human history and explains a lot about who we are, from our economics to our multiculturalism,” he said.

He added: “The devolved Welsh government has announced that colonialism and black history will be mandatory parts of the new school curriculum to be introduced in 2022.”

In 2020 over 35,000 people signed a Senedd petition calling for Britain’s colonial past to be taught in Wales’ school lessons.

The Welsh Government subsequently announced last year that all children n Wales will be taught about racism and the contributions of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

Sathnam Sanghera said that it had become “impossible to discuss British Empire in the 21st century” without “getting dragged into this absurd binary consideration” about whether it was a good or bad thing, and that historians were being “vilified by a Conservative government intent on embarking on a culture war” and “demonising them as ‘woke'”.

“This is not what lots of us mean by ‘decolonisation’ at all,” he said. “For me, it is about teaching all the stuff we have long taught, but including an imperial element.”

He added: “Apart from being deeply offensive to the millions who died, it is inane beyond belief to read history as a series of events that instil pride and shame or as a balance of rights and wrongs.

“As I explain at length in Empireland, trying to weigh up the positive and negative in this way is like defending the morality of kicking a random old man in the shins one afternoon because you fed a stray cat in the morning.

“Seeking to have pride or shame in history this long is like being proud or ashamed of the wind, or the colour purple. We need to understand imperial history, not give it an overall ‘balanced’ rating as if it were a pizza cutter you might be reviewing on Amazon.”

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