Intricacies Of Forbidden Past
History is fascinating. It is a glance into the bygone eras, a look at the past’s most significant moments. History is a mirror to see the past behind us and an instrument to learn from the past. We need to study history to know the about events that shaped our present, learn from the mistakes made, and then plan for a better future. It gives us a sense of identity by explaining how we reached where we have. Studying these rich texts makes us proud of our culture and heritage.
Apart from making us proud of our heritage, history performs another critical role. The role of telling us where we went wrong in our past and to not repeat the mistakes in the future. This is where an issue crops up. The issue is that recorded history is not the complete story; instead, it is a narrative. More often than not, history is written from the perspective of those in power. For example, scholars wrote texts in the courts of kings and emperors under their patronage. Thus those texts are bound to look favorably upon those in power. This creates a bias that prevents us from studying history impartially.
The same problem arises in the modern world. It is essential that children, the makers of tomorrow, study a detailed account of the past to build a better future. However, just like the kings and emperors of the past, the authorities structure the history syllabus in schools. They do such so that students either learn incomplete history or a narrative of the history that aids those in power. In this way, many important events from history which paint a bad picture of the country/government are not studied. The following examples would prove how ignoring our past mistakes will undoubtedly lead to a dangerous present and future.
Abolishing Black History
The USA has a long, dark history of slavery. The slaves, mostly of African descent, were exploited by the white Americans and suffered for a long time. The American Civil War between the Confederate and the Union armies was fought chiefly on the issue of slavery. The Union won the Civil War, which played an essential role in ending slavery in the US. This makes it clear that slavery is a vital part of American history. However, the extent to which this topic has been covered in American history books is debatable.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which is sweeping around the globe to bring attention to the racism still faced by Black people, started in the US with the murder of George Floyd. This highlighted the fact that racism is still a burning issue in American society. Incidents like these make one wonder whether children are being taught enough about the history of slavery to sensitize them about racism. The answers are not very encouraging. Many important events from American Black history are excluded from school books. Violent massacres are conveniently excluded from the books. Political leaders who were actively involved in slavery are celebrated. There are many statues of slave owners that are now being removed because of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The fact that George Washington was a terrible slave owner would come as a shock to many people would be enough to prove the point. Some states fail to focus on slavery, while some others fail to acknowledge white supremism fully. This causes a whole generation to learn a skewed version of history, passing on to the next. The arguments of ‘All Lives Matter’ that downplay the Black Lives Matter movement is proof enough of how harmful the ignorance taught in schools can be.
Colonialism Free British History
Britain has been a world leader for many decades. Brexit is an important event that took place in recent times. Although the majority of the experts were against this, the British voted for Brexit. While there were many intricacies to Brexit, it was, at times, connected to the rising of anti-immigrant sentiments. Opinions about how ‘immigrants are taking away jobs’ and ‘wanting the control of the borders and money back’ were heard. With such strong anti-immigrant sentiments, one cannot help but wonder if these sentiments are justified when Britain’s long history of colonialism is considered. The British colonialized many countries around the globe. India would be the best example to show the effects that colonialism had. The British left India in turmoil, poor, separated into two countries. The wealth drain and the slaves being carried off to work in plantations are well documented.
British history books surprisingly fail to highlight these. The fact that Britain laid the foundation of its present prosperity on the wealth drained off the colonies goes missing from the books. Colonialism is viewed through rose-tinted glasses, and the impression is that the British left the colonies in a better and ‘more civilized’ state than before. This perspective does a lot of harm as the students then grow up ignorant of these events. This, in turn, gives rise to strong anti-immigrant and racist sentiments that could have been avoided if the students were sensitized to colonial history.
Maharashtra Rewriting Indian History
History is written by the victors, they say. Now that might be true enough. But no one said anything about rewriting history, did they? In the recent past, the history department of Rajasthan University claimed that Maharana Pratap defeated emperor Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati. Following this, the Maharashtra government education board has reduced the Mughal emperor’s reign to just three lines. According to a Mumbai Mirror report, the board has revised history textbooks and has made numerous changes. This step taken has restricted the students from knowing several glorious past of Indian history. Moreover, the purpose of learning from the past isn't being served to that extent by studying history.
A few of the setbacks that the students will face due to the changes include no trace of the rupaya – first introduced as currency by the Afghan invaders. The currency of India is Rupaya! Razia Sultana – the first woman to rule Delhi – finds no mention in the revised textbooks. Isn't this putting aside women's power! Moreover, the maps display saffron flags all over the country’s map,” hence creating an image that Hindu Samrajya existed in India during that period.” This is indeed factually incorrect!
More importantly, the education board has removed not only the Mughal history but also Western history, which includes the French Revolution, Greek philosophy, American War of Independence, and others in detail. Reason: The board doesn’t think they are relevant! Muhammad bin Tughluq's various eccentric decisions, including shifting the empire's capital, replacing all coins overnight, can no longer be found in Maharashtra’s history books. So, we may soon have students in Maharashtra who wouldn't know who built the Taj Mahal — one of the seven wonders of the world! India has always been delicately balanced on communal lines. Removing mentions of the Mughal past and portraying only the Hindu Samrajya can wedge a gap along those communal lines.
History is often misrepresented and mistaught for various reasons. The governments sometimes change the history books to align them with their agendas. They do so to please the majority and stay in power. However, on most occasions, the dark chapters are avoided for one reason- the less one knows about history, the more comfortable one feels, thinking that they are on the right side of it. It’s crucial to teach students history as it happened and not some sanitized version of it.
The more you know about your past, the better prepared you are for your future.
- Theodore Roosevelt.