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Essay

Imperial amnesia

The messy afterlife of colonialism

THERE IS A statute of limitations on colonial wrongdoings, but none on human memory, especially living memory. There are still millions of Indians alive today who remember the iniquities of the British Empire in India. History belongs in the past; but understanding it is the duty of the present. It is, thankfully, no longer fashionable in most of the developing world to decry the evils of colonialism in assigning blame for every national misfortune.

Internationally, the subject of colonialism is even more passé, since the need for decolonisation is no longer much debated and colonialism itself no longer generates much conflict. Still, it is striking how quickly amnesia has set in among citizens of the great imperial power itself. A 1997 Gallup poll in the UK revealed 65 per cent did not know which country Robert Clive was associated with, 77 per cent did not know who Cecil Rhodes was, 79... Read more

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From Griffith Review Edition 59: Commonwealth Now © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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