“…the vogue for cancellation of history threatens to wipe out that link with the past as quickly as we can restore it.” writes Trevor Philips in The Times today. His ancestors were from Guyana brought as slaves from Africa. Their story needs to be more not less prominently told.
For me the need is not to “cancel” the facts of Britain’s history but more extensively to reveal them. Arguably the creation and operation of the British Empire was the most significant aspect of our post medieval history. Colonies were established around the world. The slave trade provided much of the labour force to exploit them. Indigenous peoples were destroyed. Land was sequestered. Religion and culture was imposed. And the rest.
Imperial history is increasingly revealed in literature (history as well as fiction). The best writing is not polemical but balanced. But nowhere in these islands is there a “Museum of Empire”. We now have extensive displays commemorating The Holocaust but none doing the same for Slavery. Our imperial record is sketchily on display, at best.
The late Desmond Tutu’s way of dealing with the recent horrors of Apartheid was to aim for reconciliation via truth. The cancel culture does not do that. It is arbitrary and selective lacking in nuance creating more heat than light. Only by telling the truth, warts and all, can we address our past. The past may be a foreign country but we should visit it and display what we find.