Britain’s colonial past - EasternEye

Britain’s colonial past

The National Trust's Dyffryn House near Cardiff, Wales (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images).
The National Trust's Dyffryn House near Cardiff, Wales (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images).

By Amit Roy

IT SHOULD be apparent to most by now that a substantial part of Brit­ain’s wealth derived from its empire, notably in In­dia, or the slave trade.

There are some Tory MPs and a clutch of right-wing commentators who are fighting to cover up the past, but they are on the wrong and losing side of history. Much of what happened is already in the public domain.

Historic England is the latest organisation to fol­low in the footsteps of the National Trust and bring out a 165-page report which identifies villages which benefited from the slave trade. Historic Eng­land should now atone for its own mistakes by giving listed status to the endangered India Club – which it refused to do in May 2018 on the spurious grounds that it had occu­pied another address in Craven Street before moving to its present lo­cation in The Strand.

That said, there are two things I would like to say in discussing Britain’s past. It is not in the inter­est of the Asian commu­nity to make the present generation of white British people feel bad about themselves. They cannot be held responsible for what their forefathers did.

Second, I definitely don’t want statues torn down. They are part of the country’s landscape and history. I don’t want the statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from outside Oriel College, Oxford, nor that of Rob­ert Clive from outside the Foreign Office in London. They are part of the Brit­ain I know and cherish.

I think the mature peo­ple of Calcutta (now Kol­kata) have shown the way. The impressive Victoria Memorial Hall, commis­sioned by Lord Curzon and with a statue of the “Empress of India” in front of the building, has been embraced by locals as their own.

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