The Secretary of State for International Trade is being pilloried on Twitter for a tweet which would leave his history teacher red in the face.
The tweet heard around the world
A YouGov poll in 2014 found a fuzzy nostalgia for the empire among British voters. The poll found that 59% of voters thought the empire was “something to be proud of”. 49% thought nations occupied by Britain were better off for it. In response, the Conservative Party devised a strategy: a post-Brexit trade deal with African nations called ‘Empire 2.0‘.
No, that’s not an old joke from Yes Minister. It’s really happening.
This was compounded by the discovery of a past tweet by Fox, glossing over the atrocities committed by the empire.
"The United Kingdom, is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history" #scc16
— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) March 4, 2016
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Fox was clearly suffering from acute historical amnesia. And The Canary pointed this out at the time, giving the politician a crash course in colonial history. The Independent, meanwhile, was kind enough to release a video. It shows just five of the worst atrocities committed by the British Empire during the 20th century.
On discovering the tweet, social media users were quick to remind Fox of how much history he had overlooked.
Partitions of Ireland, India, Palestine and Cyprus. Deportation of Chagos islanders. Mau Mau uprising. Malayan "emergency".
— Robert (@ClatchardCraig) July 17, 2016
— Lauren AlderⓋ (@LaurenAlder) March 6, 2017
— barney farmer (@barneyfarmer) March 6, 2017
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it
Britain has contributed wonderful ideas and inventions to the world. And we can be proud of that. But these worthy achievements don’t erase the worst elements of our collective history. Because by any measure, the British Empire is up there with the most violent, brutal and oppressive regimes in world history.
The empire ran concentration camps in South Africa and Kenya in which British guards tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered detainees on an industrial scale. And countless millions starved during the 1943 Bengali famine, as the empire shipped India’s food stocks to Britain instead. The British Empire committed rape, torture, theft, murder, and mass execution around the world.
If a German politician showed nostalgia for the Third Reich, whitewashing the Holocaust out of its history, there would rightly be global outrage. And the worst crimes of the British Empire were no less bloody, racist or genocidal. There is no honour in ignorance.
Neither the British public, nor its Conservative government, should show such ignorance of our history.
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