There is much to agree with in David Harewood’s piece (It’s been a turbulent year for race in Britain. So what next?, 30 October) but on one point, I differ. He writes: “This is a country that cherishes its history and its traditions.” I would say it’s a country that cherishes its English history. I went to school in Northern Ireland; our A-level history syllabus (in the 1950s) had two strands: “British” and “Modern European”. The former contained nothing about Scottish history, save for the Anglo-Scottish wars, and nothing about Irish history, save for a single reference to William of Orange and the Battle of the Boyne. The latter started with the French revolution and Napoleon, covered the Italian Risorgimento, and discussed the formation of Germany in 1871. The syllabus ended in 1914.
The only references to Africa, India and east Asia were in the context of the British empire. This reflected a cultural dissonance, in which Africa was populated by peoples who were uncultured and uncivilised, unlike us, but whose artefacts, such as the Benin bronzes, we plundered and whose monuments we dismissed as “must have been constructed by other invaders”. My fear, and regret, is that this same cultural dissonance is still alive and pervasive today.
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