It has been part of every post-war British Prime Minster’s rhetoric to emphasize what a great and powerful country the United Kingdom is. The perceived size and stature of our island contributed to the misconstrued argument of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, helping to persuade millions of the electorate that Britain would prosper without the European Union.
However, the capabilities of this country have been widely misrepresented for decades. Clinging on to the ideas that the UK has never been successfully invaded for almost a millennium; as well as the establishment of the biggest empire in history, not to mention being on the winning side in two world wars has given many Brits a belief that Great Britain is still powerful enough to shape the world and demand certain privileges. However, this is no longer the case, ever since the Suez crisis in the 1950s, the United Kingdom has been a junior partner of the United States, following them heedlessly into war and attempts at diplomacy whenever called upon. The fact that the United Kingdom is on a decline with a number of rising economies such as India, Mexico, and Indonesia expected to overtake the British economy in the next decade has been hardly acknowledged by the general public or its government.
If this mirage of British power is challenged, it should help us make more rational decisions on the world stage. In order to do this a change in the history curriculum at schools could be vital. Take Germany for example, a nation who committed one of the worst atrocities in history over 70 years ago are still trying to make up for their wrongs. This can be seen by the lack of desire for nuclear weapons and the fact that they welcomed more Syrian refugees than any other EU country. However, this shouldn’t be surprising, these friendly and hospitable qualities have become a key part of a German national identity that has been trying to unshackle itself from the ghosts of its past. This national identity has also helped Germany make more rational decisions in world politics, such as not taking part in the Iraq War and taking an influential role in the European Union with a belief that the continent is stronger together.
With this in mind, maybe the United Kingdom would be less inclined to hold onto our past so tightly, if school children were taught about the Amritsar massacre, the Boer War concentration camps, the ‘Mau Mau’ uprising or the genocide of aboriginal Tasmanians, to name but a few. Surely if these lessons were taught, there would no longer be such levels of pride attached to once ‘ruling the waves’ and Britain could begin seeing itself for what it really is. A small nation that can be far more influential as part of a much larger organism than own its own. However, it looks like its already too late.