Nostalgia? A hazy memory of a middle school history lesson? The suffering of people the world over? A necessary evil? A change in the course of global history? Brutal plunder and poverty? Something to aspire to?
The British Empire officially existed for half a millennium, involved millions of people, caused some of the biggest population shifts and technology transfers in history and influenced nearly every corner of the globe, but it's something that's rarely talked about in mainstream conversation, whether you're in Britain, Barbados, Ghana, India or any one of the former colonies.
Britain put great effort into destroying evidence of the atrocities it committed throughout the empire. Today, what's taught in schools in England is sparse and the national sentiment seems to be one of pride and nostalgia; in a 2016 YouGov poll, 44% of respondents said that they were proud of Britain's colonial past, with 21% regretting that it happened and 23% holding neither view. In former colonies, the legacy of empire lives on in political and education systems, in geographical borders, in language, culture and identity, and there still exists a narrative, propagandised by Britain during its rule, that British culture is superior that the empire was necessary for their development.
But how has the British Empire shaped the world really? And can a realm that killed millions, carved up continents and set up unequal systems of resource extraction that still exist today still be believed to be an act of altruism? We think these are questions that need answering desperately and honestly and that's why we're here.
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"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana