Dispute over British history: historians criticize double standards

At a round table on Tuesday, Culture Minister Oliver Dowden wants to call on the country’s most important historical institutions to take a “more general look” at British history. Recently, conservative forces reacted indignantly to announcements by historic sites to investigate the involvement of their previous owners in the colonial slave trade and to make it clear. The debate had gained momentum due to the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, which saw monuments smeared and overturned in several British cities.

There is a “profound misunderstanding” of what history is in the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hewitt said. “History is not a kind of fact that never changes and is written on stone tablets and passed on from generation to generation.” Hewitt criticized the government’s policy as a basis for intimidation attempts. “It silences alternative views and prevents a fuller understanding of the past,” he said. The aim is to suppress attempts to deal with colonial history more comprehensively. “The national myth is fused with history.”

Brexit also played a role in the debate, said the historian. Universities are seen by supporters of the EU exit as enemies of the Brexit project, which was mainly fueled by British nationalism. “Nationalism is in part driven by historical myths, hence an anger against those who question these myths.”

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