History Teaching Shoudn’t ‘Shy Away’ From the Unpleasant Legacy of Empire

We live in interesting times a few weeks ago the Isle of Man Education Minister advised that his Department is revisiting the history curriculum and will not “shy away” from teaching about the island’s links to the slave trade. He went on to add that a summer audit would identify ANY gaps ‘in the content or the nature of topics’.

I suppose therefore that revising the history curriculum to include the role of the British army in the creation of the British Empire and its exploits in Africa in particular will take centre stage? It was not just the creation either up until comparatively recently the British Army was doing the Empire’s dirty work as it did in its dying throes in places like Kenya. They ruthlessly suppressed the rising by the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (Mau Mau) inEast Africa for example. Indeed victims of torture imposed by the British Security Forces at that time were only recently compensated. In a sense they were the lucky ones the Army generally did not take prisoners bringing back their hands to prove they had achieved a kill. You did not need to be a terrorist to fall foul of this barbarism just ‘be in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Neither did it help if you had done your bit for the Empire during WW 2 many Kenyans who had fought with the British in the Western Desert, Italy or Burma were executed when caught taking part in their own freedom struggle. Indeed the Brits were so busy at ‘their trade; they had to deploy a travelling gallows – in excess of 1000 men were hanged.

“We knew the slow method of torture [at the Mau Mau Investigation Center] was worse than anything we could do. Special Branch there had a way of slowly electrocuting a Kuke—they’d rough up one for days. Once I went personally to drop off one gang member who needed special treatment. I stayed for a few hours to help the boys out, softening him up. Things got a little out of hand. By the time I cut his balls off, he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket. Too bad, he died before we got much out of him.

One settler’s description of British interrogation”

It was a long time ago you might say but it still has its relevance. The Isle of Man Department of Education actively encourages the Army to recruit in schools and yet as recent revelations have shown its still up to its old tricks of ‘killing the natives’ in places like Afghanistan.

So let’s have ‘an audit’ and perhaps think twice before inviting a body that is stained with the blood stained legacy of the Empire to go ‘fishing for recruits’ amongst impressionable young people.

Image: Two members of the Kikuyu detained by the British – Inset bottom left Members of I Company, 1st battalion, The Rifle Brigade on patrol at Naro Moru, Aberdares during the Kenyan war of independence (Both pics IWM)

This article was first published on the main Celtic League Facebook site at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2222378912/

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (4th August 2020)

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