Letter: History lessons

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The Independent Online
Sir: Neither the Tory spokesman Tim Collins nor Yasmin Alibhai- Brown (Opinion, 31 January) has history right. Mr Collins's interpretation, I agree, does reek of Boy's Own stuff and nonsense. But don't ban students from studying it. Let them use it as an exercise in interpretation. It tells you a lot about how societies interpret their history, and the role of myth.

As for Ms Alibhai-Brown's history, why does it begin four or five hundred years ago, when the first boats left this continent's shores? History didn't begin with colonialism. The world's events were not shaped purely by nasty white men exploiting the poor, unsuspecting natives. The current religious tensions in India originate from Muslim conquests long before the British got their hands on the country. Other nations and societies have had the colonial bug. Those Africans in the Roman army weren't invited here.

An apologetic concentration on one era is in danger of perpetuating racial tensions in this country and beyond. How convenient it is to stereotype people as the oppressed and oppressor by race. Life is more complicated than that.

ANDREW GILBERT

London SW9

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