Yesterday my Mrs attended an online union meeting at her University. Natch the statues were on the agenda. She, a person of colour, suggested that they should not all be pulled down but the middle class, white, Guardian reading, classes know what black folks really want to fight racism. Thus the Mrs was in a small minority and the Union at her left wing Madrassa now has a clear policy. Why, I wonder, are folks so angry about so many figures from the past?
There are many reasons but one is, I am afraid, ignorance. I went into some detail HERE yesterday, explaining why Thomas Guy was not really tainted by slavery at all. However, facts do not matter and his statue, at the Hospital founded with nearly all of his cash, is for the melting pot.
Thanks to a most excellent teacher, Simon Sutcliffe, I studied the history of England from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 through to the Victorian era at school. I would not say that I was an expert but it allows me to put into some context why certain windows at the house in which I live are bricked up; it means I know about the South Sea Company; the emancipation of the slaves, the wars against the French, the first Prime Minister and other such matters.
And as such I can put the actions of Mr Guy into context and also discuss whether Viscount Combemere’s statue down the road in Chester should, as proposed, join Guy in the melting pot, as I did HERE. There is a memorial plinth, in the neighbouring village, to a fellow who died in the campaign to relieve Lucknow, during the Indian mutiny. My snowflake daughter sees the entirety of the mutiny as another stain on Empire and so, no doubt, that plinth is now in some danger lest it offends passing by person of Indian heritage like…er…the Mrs.
Perhaps if my daughter were to read about the women and children dying at Lucknow (hint, they were Brits) and how we wicked Britishers opted not to blow up religious shrines though it imperilled our military position as we defended those women and children, she might think differently.
But kids today do not study the Glorious Revolution, Walpole , the Georgian era, the enlightened acts of the younger Peel, the role of the British Empire in ending the slave trade or other matters. I do not pretend that the Empire was entirely a force for good nor, sharing DNA with Wilberforce, would I say that slavery is anything but evil. But the past must be studied and events and the acts of men put in context.
Kids today will leave school having studied this period not once, other than, perhaps, in a superficial discussion of our shameful Imperial past. For this period of history is too white, too British, too Anglocentric to be deemed suitable study material. It might just feature in a very few A level papers but nearly all kids will be completely ignorant of it. They will have no idea of the Glorious Revolution. And no idea of who Wilberforce was or why trying to take down the statue of the wrong Robert Peel, as happened this week, is so shameful.
You can today obtain a GCSE in History and end your period of learning about our past with some study of the Wild West and of the history of medicine with a dash of the rise of Hitler thrown in. Hitler’s fall is less often studied since it might involve that old racist Churchill and other Imperialist monsters doing good things.
The kids do know one FACT from this era, viz that Queen Anne was a rampant lesbian as there was a movie about her last year. Had they read any books about her they might have noted how she died grief stricken just six years after the death of her dearly loved husband who managed to get her pregnant 17 times. But who cares about books, they will soon all be burned anyway. Anne, a woman who as I noted yesterday greedily demanded her cut of slaving profits, was a valiant campaigner for LGBT rights. Rock on sister and, once again, sod the history.