Hosted in London, Professor Peter Frankopan – Global History at Oxford University, was joined by Rapper and Activist Akala to discuss the gaps in global history that we are taught in the UK. Frankopan’s book The Silk Roads highlights the importance of Eastern contributions and how today’s views of those contributions are overlooked.
With Britain often whitewashing their overview of history, European history is held at the forefront of the national curriculum which can uphold certain points in history over others. The Silk Roads outlines the importance of the Eastern network of travel and how this part of the world has contributed massively to global history. From fabrication to incorrect representation, it became apparent to me that so much of history is laced in ignorance and highlighted my own historical ignorance.
Following the summary of the book content and research, Professor Frankopan then conversed with Akala about how this ignorance still very much influences society today. From Brexit to opinions about the third world, our contextualisation of Britian is still headed with a European light. An example of this is the opinion that immigrants (note, that this type of migrant are called Expats when moving from a predominantly white country) are a drain on British resources, however, are unaware that the first generation of immigrants from Jamaica and India (who were British colonies at the time) had to fund themselves, unlike the Irish, to get into the UK. The Indian and Jamaican community were indeed contributing to the empire before their respective independences. A hypocrisy within itself.
This hypocrisy is highlighted in the conversation and outline that Greek and Roman architecture was adopted in the UK in order to uphold European ideals and reflections in history. It brings to light as to what ‘Britishness’ actually is if not a mix of chosen influences. This attitude is still mirrored in the financial world and how, as a society, we view global economy here in Britain. We are so aware that the East offers some of the richest economies in the world, and yet general consensus shows that we perceive them as inferior to the west.
After the concluding discussion, I felt more obliged to question how I had been taught history in school and how this influenced my opinion of Britain with respect to the world. I felt intrigued at how many societal viewpoints are shaped from how we are taught history. Akala outlined that when catering to ethnic monitories, Britain isn’t the most discriminatory in the world, however, there is much room for improvement – particularly in education and not upholding a one- sided curriculum. Outlining that Iran’s ratio of women to men in engineering was larger and that “Indian Aunties in sarees” are involved in the Indian technology space, on par with NASA, I for one now know that history lessons need to change.