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Andy Walker

Student Question:British Empire

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A student in my college asks

"Is the history of the British Empire something British people today should be proud of or ashamed of?"

Hi Andy Walker,

Well, it is really two years by now that this question remains here.

What was your answer anyhow?

Kindly do not get amused. I believe being a teacher you might have given a responsible answer. But, let us take up this question as teachers first and then history teacher. Here, by history teacher, I must qualify that we have to check our biases and follow a definition as per which it is claimed that a historian does not have any nation. The whole world is his nation.

I believe that the student somewhere desired to ask, "Is the history of British INDIAN Empire something British people today should be proud or ashamed of?"

Now if the student had in his mind the American colonies then I believe that British historians look at it from different angle the movement they have raised the question that why did the American brother parted ways?

In case of African regions, I am constrained to say less because I have not read much.

Well in case of India, the answer can never be yes or no. It is not that I am shy of stating my version. I believe that in case of history any value judgement should be carried with great care. You may say Yes or No, but this would be a value judgement. Secondly, I believe the question comes under the category of generalization which I believe only an established historian should try to answer.

I as a history teacher, may try to undertake a discussion on it only. But I will never pass a judgement in terms of yes or no.

However, Here I would like to direct the attention of the interested readers to some of my posts on my blog which was actually written on BBC/History. The posts are available at

"What would have happened, had british supported the war efforts CSA during the Civil War? (Note this question was asked by a british citizen on BBC site.)

Then read the next post which was again a question asked by a British citizen on the BBC site. The question was "Can India be regained again?"

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