British schools to teach history of British India and slave trade

August 27th, 2008 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 27 (IANS) Secondary school students in Britain are to be taught history of Mughal and British India and black slavery as part of the government’s move to make students better appreciate modern issues related to immigration and ethnic minorities.The two subjects, aimed at highlighting the influence of ethnic minorities, will join the two world wars and the Holocaust as periods that must form part of the history syllabus from September.

Schoolchildren will learn about the roles of William Wilberforce, the MP who campaigned for the abolition of slavery, and Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who drew attention to the horrors of the trade after buying his freedom and writing an autobiography.

They will also be taught about the origins of the empire, with one unit looking at rise and fall of the Mughals in India and the arrival of the British. Another is titled “How was it that, by 1900, Britain controlled nearly a quarter of the world?”

Key figures in Indian ethnic minority history identified in the new history curriculum include Mughal emperor Akbar, nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Dawlah and Queen Victoria.

The three persons are introduced in the new curriculum as:

Akbar - regarded as one of the greatest rulers in Indian history, who presided over an empire that included almost all of northern India when he died in 1605;

Siraj-ud-Dawlah - nawab of Bengal whose attack on Calcutta in 1756 resulted in the “Black Hole” incident in which scores of English captives died in a cramped dungeon;

Queen Victoria - became Empress of India after government of India was transferred from East India Company to Crown in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny.

Kevin Brennan, the children’s minister, said: “Although we may be ashamed to admit it, the slave trade is an integral part of British history. It is inextricably linked to trade, colonisation, industrialisation and the British Empire.

Mick Waters, director of curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said: “Black history is not just about slavery - it is much broader than that. It is about the contribution that black and Asian people have made throughout history. The benefits are that pupils gain a better appreciation of the multicultural society around them and the contribution they can make.”

According to a government briefing document, quoted by The Telegraph, one of the aims of the switch is to “put immigration, the Commonwealth and the legacy of the Empire into a clear historical context…This can help pupils prepare for life in a diverse and multi-ethnic society”.

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