Lewis Birchon's Reviews > Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain

Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera
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it was amazing

Empireland is a remarkably concise but accessible analysis of how Britain’s history of empire (and selective amnesia of the details thereof) have shaped modern Britain. Sanghera is a generous and humorous writer, but pulls no punches when it comes to the necessarily painful and horrific accounts of the reality of empire.

Sanghera argues compellingly that in order to shape a view of what we want Britain to be in the future, we need to honestly understand and acknowledge what it has been in the past. This is a timely topic, and the final chapter ends on an optimistic note about the actions being taken by organisations and individuals to do just this. It is, however, unavoidable that this is in the context of a government that will cross a road to have a fight about culture war issues in lieu of pretty much anything.

There were two things that stood out for me. Firstly the need to move away from the ‘empire: good or bad?’ narrative. Empire was complex, spanned hundreds of years, and had no central organising purpose or principle. A balance-sheet approach adds no value, yet understanding the nuance and context of empire helps establish a real understanding of where we are now and how we might get to a better future. And secondly, the framing of the decolonisating education movement sounds like it’s narrowing the curriculum, when in reality it’s widening it. This is important, because it’s a movement that comes up agains ad hominem attacks and straw-man arguments, and clear positioning is essential to be successful.

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Reading Progress

December 28, 2021 – Started Reading
December 28, 2021 – Shelved
December 31, 2021 – Finished Reading

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