A particularly interesting aspect of my project has been looking at the American Revolution from a British perspective. It is an area that I was relatively unaware of before Rory’s comment on one of my earlier blog posts, but has now become a central aspect of my project. The Whiggish perspective, outside of the usual accounts of Thomas Paine, is a very complex and historically appealing area of study.

One book that was recommended to me, Robert Tombs’ The English and Their History, has made me ponder the question of why the curriculum is compiled in the manner that it is. Within the British education system, very little is generally taught on the subject of the American Revolution. On top of this, even less is mentioned about the Whiggish sympathies for the American case of independence, an area that, as I have mentioned, is worth its weight in gold when it comes to historical case studies. The complexities of teaching such a topic, whereby British parliamentarians and people felt that the agenda of the Crown and the State was flawed, are undoubtedly the reasoning behind their absence from the mainstream curriculum.

There is an interesting scene in The History Boys, whereby the discuss the morality of studying the Holocaust. Whilst I am not comparing the two, I am highlighting the fact that material that would be sensitive to those studying it is often left by the wayside and forgotten about, especially in mainstream education. A line from that scene states the need to “distance ourselves”, that “there is no period in history more distant than the recent past”. Whilst the American Revolution can no longer be called ‘recent history’, the consequences of British colonialism are very much recent, if not ongoing. Whilst this is very much beyond the limits of my project, it is something that is definitely worth exploring and was included in my dissertation proposal – fingers crossed it is approved!

Colonial Curriculum

One thought on “Colonial Curriculum

  • April 17, 2021 at 10:36 am

    Hi Douglas,

    I found your blog post very interesting, especially since the title jumped out at me as similar to my own project. Your post has prompted some thoughts of my own around your topic area too. Firstly, I completely agree with your confusion around the lack of American revolutionary studies in the British education system. Personally, the topic was only touched on in my school history classes when we did a term on the Atlantic slave trade, and the revolution was studied in rather strict isolation. I was left learning more widely by doing my own research. When I studied the history of the library module at St Andrews, we gained a greater insight into British Jacobin literature around this time too, which was certainly interesting as an insight into stirring revolutionaries. Even the fact that a greatly increasing literacy rate in Britain, as a result of increasing novel readership for example, was cause for concern around revolutionary thoughts and aspirations was very intriguing, and I’m sure is similar to factors you are studying too.

    I also agree with your last paragraph. While we have all been wrapped up in exploring the new terrain of transnational, comparative, global, and intellectual histories, it is important to remember that new histories are indeed crucial to our study too. In my own study, we are still adding to the history of post-colonialism, as more adaptations of Shakespeare are produced. I am definitely looking forward to viewing your presentation next week, especially given the parallels between our studies, and also hope your diss proposal is approved!

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