Britons have 'historical amnesia' on colonial era: Shashi Tharoor's interview goes viral

The Congress MP made a case for Britain to teach colonial history in its schools.
Britons have 'historical amnesia' on colonial era: Shashi Tharoor's interview goes viral
Britons have 'historical amnesia' on colonial era: Shashi Tharoor's interview goes viral
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Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor, who has been vocal about his views on the atrocities of the British in India, reiterated that the UK needs to start teaching colonial history in its schools.

In a recent interview with Britain's Channel 4 News, Tharoor said, "There is so much historical amnesia about what the (British) empire really entailed. The fact that you don't really teach colonial history in your schools - children doing A-levels in history don't learn a line of colonial history. There's no real awareness of the atrocities.”

Like how Britain financed it industrial revolution through the plunders of the Empire or how it reduced India from one of the richest countries in the world to one of the poorest by the time it left, Tharoor cited.

"I think we need to be aware of history because as I often say to young people, if you don't know where you've come from, how will you appreciate where you're going?" he added.

The video, published on Channel 4 News's Facebook page has garnered over 37k shares with many agreeing with his views.

Interestingly, a video of Tharoor engaging in a discussion at the Oxford Union Reparations Debate had also gone viral in 2015. He had been invited to speak on the topic "Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies".

Tharoor later revealed how the video going viral and his speech striking a chord with so many inspired him to write a book on the subject.

He went on to pen 'An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India', the purpose of which was "to examine the legacy of the Raj, to critically study the claims made for its alleged benefits, and to present the evidence and the arguments against it."

In the preface to his book, Tharoor wrote, "The book differs from the speech in some crucial respects. It is not about reparations, for one thing. My speech led up to that argument because that was the topic the Oxford Union had announced, not because I was personally wedded to the case for reparations. I was convinced about the wrongs inflicted on colonial subjects by the British empire, but I suggested at the end of my speech that India should be content with a symbolic reparation of one pound a year, payable for 200 years to atone for 200 years of imperial rule. I felt that atonement was the point—a simple ‘sorry’ would do as well—rather than cash."

"Indeed, the best form of atonement by the British might be, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has suggested, to start teaching unromanticized colonial history in British schools. The British public is woefully ignorant of the realities of the British empire, and what it meant to its subject peoples."

In an interview to last year, when asked if he thought history was being reinterpreted under the Modi leadership, Tharoor said that "there is no doubt that history is used and abused".

He then explained the difference between him talking about the 200-year-long British rule in India and BJP leaders talking about foreign rule a thousand years ago.

"When a BJP leader stands up and talks about 1,200 years of foreign rule, and I talk about 200 years of foreign rule, there is a difference. To my mind, the Muslim rulers who may have come from elsewhere but assimilated into India, who may have looted India but spent their loot in India, are different from foreigners who did not assimilate and took the loot back to their country and spent it there. That perception is what sets me apart from Hindu historians," he said. 

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