LETTER: Place of the British Empire in an unbiased history syllabus

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The Independent Online
Sir: May I support the head of history of York College (letter, 5 February) in opposing the attempt of the Government to impose upon our young people a politically biased history syllabus; and I agree with him that education should engender a critical faculty fit to appraise justly the accumulated wisdom of former generations.

For example, on 10 June 1833 Thomas Macaulay said in the House of Commons: "The destinies of our Indian Empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a state which resembles no other in history ... It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system ... that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions ... Whenever it comes it will be the proudest day in English history ... The sceptre may pass away from us."

That day came in August 1947. And in 1961 it was heartening to meet a Minister for Education in Pakistan who said that when he faced a problem he turned to Macaulay's minutes for help; and to attend the Legislative Assembly in Delhi, where Mr Speaker, in keeping order, had recourse to Erskine May's Parliamentary Procedure.

Let us hope that, with or without governmental prompting, our children will continue to learn how, in 1931, the Statute of Westminster created out of Empire a radical Commonwealth of freely associated peoples, of many races and creeds but equal in status; nothing to be ashamed of.

Vice-Admiral Sir IAN McGEOCH

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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