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I think my hypothetical students already have a great deal to take in.

A section on great imperial disasters - the two Afghan wars, Gordon at Khartoum and the Battle of Isandlwana perhaps - might present a few problems to modern teachers. In the heyday of the empire they could be presented as part of the heroic price for bringing civilisation to the benighted barbarians even though they did not want it - almost a sacrifice like that of Christ (at least by unstated implication). However we do not think like that nowadays.

As I recall my own schooling all these things were touched on, but not given great weight. Gordon's fate and the ending of suzerainity over the Boer Republics in South Africa (which took place at about the same time) were brought up as the subject matter of the Conservative attack on Gladstone for being soft on imperial questions (which he was because he thought colonies a drain on Britain - not buying into the jingoist belligerence Disraeli encouraged).

The trouble with history is there is so much of it. Coming up with a manageable narrative which covers everything fairly is an almost impossible task.

by Gary J on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 09:53:07 AM EST
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