How to acknowledge the past – the good the bad and the ugly

I have spent some time in the last couple of years in Germany and have seen what the Germans have done to record their past. The Historical Museum in Berlin displays the Nazi era in graphic detail. There are other museums in the City which focus on specific aspects of those terrible times. They are all realistic and informative.

Imperialism and colonisation were arguably the most significant global forces of the second millennium. And yet there are few if any places you can go to learn about them certainly in Britain. Slavery was a driver of Britain’s Imperialism but there is no museum you can visit to learn about this.

Susan Neiman, a professor of history in a Berlin university, published a book last year called “Learning from the Germans”. The key proposition was that the southern United States should address their racist past by establishing museums (etc) which inform about it. A start has been made on this in Mississippi.

Britain should found a substantial “Museum of Empire” in which our imperial past is accurately recorded. There are distinguished historians who think that some of that history was commendable – fine , let them have their say. If there was some “good” let’s put it alongside the bad and the ugly.

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