Historians have called for a review of the Home Office Citizenship and Settlement Test, in a letter published today in the Guardian. The letter was organised by Professor Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck) and has 181 signatories at the time of writing, including many members of History & Policy:
The official handbook published by the Home Office is fundamentally misleading and in places demonstrably false. For example, it states that ‘While slavery was illegal within Britain itself, by the 18th century it was a fully established overseas industry’ (p.42). In fact, whether slavery was legal or illegal within Britain was a matter of debate in the eighteenth century, and many people were held as slaves. The handbook is full of dates and numbers but does not give the number of people transported as slaves on British ships (over 3 million); nor does it mention that any of them died. It also states that ‘by the second part of the 20th century, there was, for the most part, an orderly transition from Empire to Commonwealth, with countries being granted their independence’ (p.51). In fact, decolonisation was not an ‘orderly’ but an often violent process, not only in India but also in the many so-called “emergencies” such as the Mau-Mau Uprising in Kenya (1952-1960). We call for an immediate official review of the history chapter.
The letter notes that over 125,000 people will have taken the test in 2019, including applicants from former imperial colonies with knowledge of colonial violence. For others, it may have been their first encounter with any British history and has given them a distorted view of the past, while those with some prior knowledge have been put in the position of being obliged to memorise and repeat false history.
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